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First-ever Advanced Placement course on African American studies enters classroom

Posted at 5:58 PM, Sep 22, 2022

While some educators are shying away from race discussions this year, 60 high schools nationwide are now offering an Advanced Placement course on African American studies.

According to Marlon Williams-Clark, a social studies teacher in Florida State University Schools, it's taken 20 years to come to fruition.

"You can't talk about U.S. history without talking about Black people," Williams-Clark said. "It's just too connected."

Marlon Williams-Clark is one of the teachers piloting the AP course. He says the plan is for 200 schools to introduce the course next year, with more schools taking it on every year after.

"You can literally see white students learning from Black students and Black students learning from white students," Williams-Clark said.

To start the course, he says they talked about the history of Black studies and how there were protests in the 1960s when Black students realized the curriculum did not reflect them as they integrated into predominantly white institutions.

"And then it was interesting without me even prompting them, is that they started to make a connection with the push for those types of classes at the college level in the 1960s, and then what they're seeing today," Williams-Clark said.

Williams-Clark says there wasn't enough momentum for an AP African American studies course until mid-2020, and before this course, he believes its teachings have been left out of education.

Now he says he has an opportunity through this course to use literature, art, music, and film to teach students about the experiences of many Black people.

"So we look at the Bantu migration and how that affected different populations, different West African kingdoms, and other important kingdoms and what was happening in Africa prior to European arrival," Williams-Clark said. "And then we'll segway into going talking about colonization and the transatlantic slave trade and all of that and move over into the Western Hemisphere."

Williams-Clark says he hopes this is just the beginning of more minority AP history courses. He wants people to know AP African American Studies is not a class focused on racism.

"It's about an experience," Williams-Clark said. "And while race and racism may be linked to that experience, it is not strictly that. It is about success and achievement. It's about the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is about making something out of nothing. It's about endurance. It's about being self-sufficient. It is about creation."