Florida Officials Had Repeated Contact With College Board Over African American Studies

While the College Board was developing its first Advanced Placement course in African American studies, the group was in repeated contact with the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, often discussing course concepts that the state said it found objectionable, a newly released letter shows.

[M]any scholars have noted the omission of terms that, according to the College Board’s own research documents, are considered central to African American Studies as it is taught on college campuses.

When the final course guidelines were released last week, the College Board had removed or significantly reduced the presence of many of those concepts — like intersectionality, mass incarceration, reparations and the Black Lives Matter movement — though it said that political pressure played no role in the changes.…

Intersectionality, for example, is an influential theory first laid out by the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. It posits that race, class, gender, sexuality and other forms of identity intersect in ways that shape individuals’ experience of the world.

Professor Crenshaw’s work is important to several disciplines, including African American studies, gender studies and legal studies. She is also closely associated with critical race theory, a concept that has become a lightning rod among conservative curriculum activists, who object to schools emphasizing the concepts of racism or white privilege.

[Some] scholars, troubled by the changes, questioned whether the course could be considered true to African American studies.

“With key concepts and thinkers now sidelined, the new curriculum lacks the intellectual heft and moral urgency that students in Florida — and students everywhere — need and deserve,” wrote Matthew Guterl, a professor of Africana and American studies at Brown University, in an email to The New York Times.

Joshua M. Myers, a professor of Africana studies at Howard University who served on the course’s 2021 writing team, also criticized the course’s final version.

“I think these changes are convenient,” Dr. Myers said in a statement last week to The Hilltop, Howard’s student newspaper. “They align with the College Board’s mission, which is to make the course salable. But do they align with the mission of Black studies? I don’t think so.”

In a written statement to The Times, Professor Crenshaw said, “People need to pay very close attention to this story — not just Black studies educators and K-12 teachers, but everyone who worries that the slide to authoritarianism is real. This is how it happens.”


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