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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: AP African American history courses are long overdue

Students leave East Chapel Hill High School on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.

How would we safely navigate the roads without Garrett Morgan’s three-position traffic light? How would we light our homes and businesses without Lewis Latimer’s carbon light bulb filament, which could outlast Thomas Edison’s bulb? How would we protect our homes without Marie Van Brittan Brown’s home security system?

Advancements to modern medicine, building the foundations of this country, entertainment, music, American culture — Black people are at the center of it all, yet we still aren’t worthy of being taught in your classrooms?

Florida is already notorious for being a hot mess, so it comes as no surprise that they are making headlines once again in this regard. The Florida Department of Education has banned College Board’s new Advanced Placement African American Studies course from being taught in high schools. According to the Department, the course is "inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” The department went so far as to say that if College Board were to edit the course and present what the department considers “lawful, historically accurate content, (the department) will always be willing to reopen the discussion.” 

Florida would never question the “educational value” and “historically accurate” content of the AP European History course available in their school districts — and others across the country — because it centers white people. Their culture, contributions, inventions and narratives of history hold validity. On the contrary, Black people will never live up to that standard in the eyes of many. 

The College Board offered the first pilot version of the AP African American Studies course to 60 high schools across the country this school year. According to a representative from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Chapel Hill High School will be piloting the course next year after the plan to do so was approved at a CHCCS board meeting on January 5. 

The AP African American Studies course curriculum will be made available to all high schools at the start of the 2024-2025 academic year. In the spring of 2025, the first exams for the course will be issued and college credit will be granted at over 200 universities to students with qualifying scores. The curriculum will cover various topics highlighting Black experiences and our crucial contributions to history, including in science, geography, literature, political science, arts, humanities and so forth. 

The addition of this new AP course comes at a crucial time in the political debate surrounding Critical Race Theory and Nikole Hannah-Jones' 1619 Project. In short, Critical Race Theory aims to change the way racism is viewed in America. According to the theory, race is a social construct used to oppress people of color. Institutions and the law are also inherently racist and give power to white people by supporting social, political and economic disparities between them and people of color. 

The 1619 Project was created to reshape the way American history is taught. Unlike traditional textbooks, her project puts slavery and its legacy at the forefront of American history, bringing more attention to anti-Black racism and injustice that continues to shape the U.S. 

Critical Race Theory and this project aim to rewrite history and emphasize the truly barbaric and evil sins of this country through education and have, thus, been met with controversy. 

Just last year, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on the "Stop W.O.K.E. Act," limiting how racism and parts of history are taught in schools and the workplace. The act also restricts educators from teaching content that could potentially make students feel responsible or guilty for the atrocities committed by their ancestors. 

What people like DeSantis fail to realize is that the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory and AP African American Studies courses have a common goal — and it is not to guilt-trip white people. For centuries, Black voices have been silenced and our stories either sugar-coated or discredited entirely. 

It is time that we started telling the truth about how this country even came to be. It is not about tip-toeing around injustice and making white people feel comfortable about their family history. Black people have forcefully given so much toward the founding of this country, yet have received so little in return. Our inventions, culture, trends, writing, art and so much more are worthy to be printed in textbooks and deserving of college credits. If it weren’t so, why are they so easily stolen and patented as something else? 

An AP-level African American Studies course is long overdue. It is time to face the music and accept that the U.S. has never been a clean slate — and it would be nothing without Black people. 


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