College Board to offer AP African American Studies

CIVIL RIGHTS MARCH: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann attend the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By Jasmine Kim

The College Board announced that 60 unnamed high schools across the U.S. will begin to offer an Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course. This will be the College Board’s 40th Advanced Placement course and the first new one since 2014.

The AP program allows high school students the opportunity to take college-level classes before graduation and currently offers subjects such as English Literature, government, statistics, and biology. 

Though students will not be able to receive college credit for African American Studies this year, the College Board will expand the availability of this course to all interested high schools starting the 2024-2025 school year according to The Hill. The phased rollout will give universities time to establish accreditation policies that allow students to apply these course credits to their higher education requirements.

The African American Studies course is interdisciplinary, addressing topics such as civil rights, politics, literature, the arts, and even geography. If the pilot program becomes official, this course will be the first in African American studies to be considered rigorous enough to allow high school students to receive credit and advanced placement at various colleges across the country.

In a statement, Trevor Packer, the senior vice president of AP and Instruction at the College Board, said the class “will introduce a new generation of students to the amazingly rich cultural, artistic, and political contributions of African Americans.”

To pass the pilot AP African American Studies test, students will have to understand the concept of intersectionality, a way of looking at discrimination through overlapping racial and gender identities, according to Time.

The College Board declined to release a sample syllabus or other content for the course, or to name the 60 schools and the states they were located in to the general public. However, the College Board plans to post the course framework in its entirety on their website in spring 2024 according to The Hill.

Packer specifically cited the death of George Floyd and the surrounding protests and social response as reasons why the organization had chosen to announce the course at this time.

The course was introduced amidst legislative attempts to stop schools from teaching critical race theory and when lessons on the Black American and African diaspora experience are at the center of a nationwide debate. The academic framework proposes that U.S. institutions and culture are systemically racist and that oppression is rooted in American law.

Although schools do not have a dedicated class on critical race theory, the ideas and experiences of the theory are often incorporated into classroom instruction in other subjects, including history, literature, and even math.

It is unclear how state-level bans on public school instruction of critical race theory could affect the widespread introduction of the new AP course. Some have argued that such a course could become a framework for educators to teach critical race theory, which posits that race and racism have been rooted in American law and institutions since slavery and Jim Crow.

“I think it’s finally time to introduce different cultures and their historical backgrounds and highlight diversity. I know I want to learn about where my ancestors are from and what they did years ago,” sophomore Adaora Obiako said.