College Board updates framework for AP African American Studies

College Board released an updated framework for the new AP African American Studies course on February 1. Jackson-Reed is one of 60 schools across the U.S. currently running the pilot version of the program. 

The updated framework contains changes to the course, including new topics, the removal of some scholars associated with Black feminism and Black queer theory, the elimination of Black Lives Matter from the official curriculum, and more. 

The recent changes to the curriculum will not affect the pilot version of the course currently being taught, but this altered curriculum will be used in future classes. 

Social studies teacher Betty Mfalingundi is leading the AP African American Studies course at Jackson-Reed. 

While she acknowledged the changes made to the curriculum, Mfalingundi noted that the framework is a baseline for the course.

“We are allowed to add whatever we want,” Mfalingundi said. “Have faith in teachers and trust that we want to do right by our students, so to use the words of [College Board CEO] David Coleman, we can give a nuanced and unflinching look at African American history and culture,” she continued.

Mfalingundi is excited to teach the course at Jackson-Reed.

There’s a lot of focus on how we discuss resistance, activism, and oppression, which are important, but the course does offer many opportunities to learn about Black joy as well,” Mfalingundi said.

“I think [the course] really fits a want and a need, from Black students who want to learn more about their history and their experience, to students who don’t identify as Black who think that [the course] is an important lens [through which] to look at the world,” Mfalingundi said.

Students in the course echo Mfalingundi’s sentiment.

I think it’s really important and I honestly think it should be a required class,” senior Zahra Aboul-Magd said.

Mfalingundi noted that some of the changes may make the class easier to teach moving forward. Mfalingundi said that the course currently has a significant amount of required material that is difficult to pace.

Mfalingundi added that some of the additions to the course, like Black conservatism, will “enrich the class.” 

However, Mfalingundi is concerned that some of the changes come from a place of “wanting to make people feel better.”

“Aspects of [Black history] make people uncomfortable and it should make people uncomfortable. It would be disappointing to me if we were giving in to people not wanting to take an unflinching look at [history],” Mfalingundi said.

DCPS Social Studies manager Raymond Hamilton declined to comment on the changes to the curriculum. 

Mfalingundi attended the AP Course Celebration for AP African American Studies on February 2, a day after the new framework was released.

Black scholars and historians who played a crucial role in building the course, such as Brandi Waters, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Robert Patterson, spoke at the event. College Board CEO David Coleman also spoke at the event. Coleman noted the work of the expunged writers—including bell hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Kimberlé W. Crenshaw—will still be available to students in the course via AP Classroom. 

The removal of these writers from the official curriculum has some questioning whether complaints from politicians, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have influenced the changes made to this finalized framework. DeSantis has claimed that the course is part of a “woke agenda.” 

However, College Board asserts in its official statement regarding the new framework that no political official had an influence on the changes made. “This course has been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices,” the statement reads.

Greg Carr, a professor of Afro-American Studies at Howard University and member of the AP African American Studies Advisory Board, explained how he believes that many of the adjustments to the curriculum are ultimately political. 

“I don’t think any of us would be naïve enough to think there were not inclusions and/or omissions that were not political,” Carr said. “The best you can do in a course like this is have the debate.”

Carr added that “a great deal of education is about socialization. So, you know, once you start talking about how to socialize the population, to take the next lap in whatever this experiment is, you’re not talking about facts and data, you’re talking about politics.” •