Florida Rejects Black History AP Curriculum, Saying It “Lacks Educational Value”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives at a press conference on Daytona Beach Shores in Florida on January 18, 2023. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has rejected a request from the nonprofit organization that manages Advanced Placement (AP) high school classes to expand a course on Black studies in the state.

The College Board, which runs various AP programs and the SAT test, has run a pilot program of an AP standard African American studies course in 60 schools across the country. Details of the curriculum have not yet been made public, though topics within the coursework include speeches by Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast and medical programs, and the history of Juneteenth, the national holiday commemorating the end of slavery after the Civil War.

“Drawing from the expertise and experience of college faculty and teachers across the country, the course is designed to offer high school students an evidence-based introduction to African American studies,” a description of the class reads. “The interdisciplinary course reaches into a variety of fields — literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science — to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.”

While several states have banned or sought to restrict the teaching of critical race theory (or rather, officials’ errant interpretations of it), academics have made it clear that the AP course does not violate those statutes.

“AP African American Studies is not CRT. It’s not the 1619 Project. It is a mainstream, rigorously vetted, academic approach to a vibrant field of study, one half a century old in the American academy, and much older, of course, in historically Black colleges and universities,” Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the country’s foremost experts in Black history, told TIME in August.

Nevertheless, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) rejected the application to expand the teaching of the course throughout the state, likely relying on the standards of the “Stop WOKE Act,” which DeSantis signed in 2022 to restrict Florida educators from teaching about race and racism in American history.

FDOE justified its decision to reject the course in a letter dated January 12, claiming that, “as presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

“In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion,” the letter went on.

It’s unclear what parts of the lesson plan FDOE has deemed inaccurate, as the details of the curriculum are unknown. But many believe the rejection of the course is simply another attempt to restrict lessons on racism, rather than a response to any actual inaccuracies.

“DeSantis Blocks AP African-American Studies Course. Another racist act that limits education for students,” Karla Hernández, president of the United Teachers of Dade, said on Twitter.

“This political extremism and its attack of Black History and Black people, is going to create an entire generation of Black children who won’t be able to see themselves reflected at all within their own education or in their own State,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones (D) said.

Some human rights advocates noted that FDOE rejected the curriculum briefly after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was publicly commemorated by many Republican politicians in the state, including DeSantis.

“One day after quoting MLK on MLK Day, Florida MAGA Gov Ron DeSantis cancels AP African American Studies Program, saying it ‘Lacks Educational Value.’ How ridiculous,” human rights lawyer and author Qasim Rashid said.

Parents of Black students in Florida also criticized the move. Delilah Andrews, a Black mother of two children near Orlando, told WESH, the local NBC affiliate station, that the state’s action was disappointing.

“It saddens me, you understand, because some of the children, they don’t get that African American history at home,” she said.

Chris Walker is a news writer at Truthout, and is based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Focusing on both national and local topics since the early 2000s, he has produced thousands of articles analyzing the issues of the day and their impact on the American people.