“The official curriculum for the [AP African-American Studies] course, released Wednesday by the College Board, downplays some components that had drawn criticism from DeSantis and other conservatives. Topics including Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations, and queer life are not part of the exam.” — Associated Press, 02/01/23
The College Board is thrilled to introduce our new AP course in African-American Studies, filling a crucial gap in our course offerings. After incorporating feedback from various stakeholders like the Florida Department of Education, we are pleased to report that the AP African-American Studies curriculum will cover Black history from January 1996 all the way to December 1996.
The original vision for our AP African-American Studies course was to give students a comprehensive view of the history of Black America, from the first enslaved Africans that arrived at Chesapeake Bay right up to the Black Lives Matter movement. But after receiving some pushback from conservatives, we thought to ourselves, “If a group of white, right-wing elites thinks we shouldn’t be teaching certain aspects of Black history, maybe it’s just because they have Black Americans’ best interests at heart.” So we nixed the entire curriculum from 1619-1968 since it was a little too one-sided about how slavery and Jim Crow were bad. And everything from 1968 to the present was cut because it was too focused on “activism.” Critics of our course simply couldn’t think of a single justifiable reason why Black people would want to protest any time after 1968.
Luckily, we managed to come to an agreement on material we could cover that would celebrate African-American culture while not drawing attention to any historic struggles Black Americans have faced. That’s how we ended up with a course that will now focus exclusively on Black history during one pivotal year of the 1990s.
1996 is the perfect period to focus on for several reasons. This year comes after the beating of Rodney King by the LAPD but before the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo by the NYPD. If the ’90s were a hurricane of police violence, then 1996 is the calm, sunny eye. So staying there allowed us to avoid any blustering politicking about police reform or floods of difficult conversations on systemic racism that the rest of the ’90s would be sure to bring up. Plus, focusing on 1996 narrowly avoids the O.J. Simpson trial, so, you know, bullet dodged there.
On the flip side, 1996 does cover the death of Tupac Shakur, offering a chance to discuss the Hip Hop Wars and how Black-on-Black violence is the real problem plaguing Black communities.
That year also offers the perfect opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of Black America in ways we can all agree on. There are now just two areas of study for the course. The first semester of the class will focus on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and how the show demonstrates that all Black Americans can achieve the same wealth and success as Uncle Phil, provided they work hard. And the second semester of the class will focus on the Chicago Bulls and how Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson exemplify how Black people can achieve great things if they just listen to white guys. If time in the semester allows, a third short unit on the 1996 Summer Olympics can be included since Michael Johnson’s world record 200M sprint is the only important historical moment we could include when it comes to Black people and the city of Atlanta.
To those that say we’re capitulating to a handful of wealthy reactionaries, you’ll be pleased to know that students will be able to choose from a wide variety of class projects as long as they relate in some way to the year 1996. Sample project titles include “Clarence Thomas: The early years of the Supreme Court’s greatest Black justice,” “Space Jam: How one movie fixed Black representation in Hollywood forever,” and “Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys: Why it’s great to be a Black guy in Texas.”
We’re confident that, even if our new course omits large swaths of our nation’s history, students will find plenty to learn about Black America during this one relatively harmonious 366-day period (’96 was a leap year).
Sure, they say those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it. But that phrase was coined by a Spanish-American born in the 1860s, so we’re not even sure if we’re legally allowed to teach that.