High school senior Kenneth Haggerty has learned about the development and massacre of Black Wall Street, the in-depth history of prominent Black figures like Malcolm X and the influences of hip-hop music.
The Advanced Placement African American studies course he’s in encourages conversations, debates, collaboration and hands-on assignments on topics often left out in “the regular curriculum,” he said.
Haggerty, a student at KIPP Oak Cliff Academy, now worries that the class could be at stake in Texas if Florida’s ban of the course has a domino effect across other states.
“It’s stripping them away from a different perspective or the other side,” he said. “I just don’t feel like that is fair.”
KIPP Oak Cliff Academy is one of three Texas campuses, including another in the Dallas area, piloting the course this school year before it’s launched on a broader scale nationwide, according to the Texas Education Agency.
But last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education rejected the AP course, claiming it violates state law and “lacks educational value,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The College Board unveiled its outline for the new course this month, but many criticized the organization for caving under the pressure of hard-line conservatives by watering down the course. The curriculum has been in the making for more than a decade.
The names of multiple Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, as well as discussions on the queer experience, Black feminism, mass incarceration and Black Lives Matter, were all gutted from the curriculum, The New York Times first reported.
In a response to what they called “misinformation,” College Board officials clarified that the recently released framework “is only the outline of the course” and that such subjects are “optional topics in the pilot course.”
“Our lack of clarity allowed the narrative to arise that political forces had ‘downgraded’ the role of these contemporary movements and debates in the AP class,” the College Board’s statement continues.
During a recent class at KIPP, “Candy Rain” by Soul for Real played as students streamed in to find their seats. A corner of the classroom boasts posters of Black and Latino singers, such as Tyler the Creator, Kali Uchis and BROCKHAMPTON.
Throughout class, students discussed the different periods of Malcolm X’s life. Their teacher — who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the civil rights activist’s name and face — asked them to elaborate on the significance of the years.
Books were stacked on the teacher’s desk, including Chicano! by F. Arturo Rosales, An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz and In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.