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History teacher Brenda Helfing gives instructions to her period 3 AP US History class. Helfing will teach the new AP African American students class next year.

New AP class to teach Black history, culture next year

June 5, 2023

While on a mission to learn more about her heritage, freshman Camryn Claridy sees next school year’s new AP African American Studies course as a way to learn about her ancestors’ experiences with inequality and racial oppression.

“I would take the course because I want to learn more about my heritage and more about what Black people had to go through in the past,” Claridy said. “We also need that type of stuff, like learning more about African American history.”

AP African American Studies will be a new course next year offered to Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS) students. This course is new to the College Board’s offering of Advanced Placement courses. Its intended purpose is to highlight African American cultures and resistance movements including the Black Panthers and the Harlem Renaissance, according to Best Colleges. So far, 60 high schools around the United States offer AP African American Studies, including Dorsey High School in Los Angeles.

“I feel like it’d be a good class to have for this type of school since this school is what I’d call a progressive school,” freshman Tobias Bechdholt said. “We’re smaller than most schools, so I guess having an African American AP Studies class would add to the school’s reputation in a way.

AP African American Studies has recently been in the middle of a national controversy with conservatives and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis saying “We believe in education, not indoctrination.” While other Republicans are saying the motive behind the course being added is a political agenda, others disagree. “By attempting to appease everyone, the final curriculum will hurt African American students,” according to an education professor in the article “Op-Ed: Watering down AP African American Studies preserves the myth that racism exists solely in the past,” published on Feb. 2 in The Los Angeles Times. 

Guidance Counselor Martina Torres says African American studies can offer many things to students at DPMHS. The class can inform students about African American culture and other interesting things like dances. Taking the class also gives students a chance to work at AP level.  

“I think it opens up students about other cultures that we don’t get to focus on in other curriculums,” DPMHS counselor Martina Torres said. “It’s also another opportunity for students to show that they can perform at AP level work and I know a lot of students like to add that extra point on their GPA.”

Due to critics’ comments stating that the College Board created the course with the purpose of satisfying political pressure, the organization will make changes to the course. According to a report by PBS NewsHour published on April 25, these changes include several topics being removed from the course, such as slavery reparations.

Florida’s Department of Education has even banned the AP African American Studies course with a letter sent to The College Board on Jan. 12 officially announcing the decision, with the belief the course will teach students a “political agenda,” according to npr.org.

“The controversy is ridiculous because history is history,” said senior Ashley Harrison, who’s a member of the Black Student Union (BSU). “It’s just the plain facts and the plain events that happened and it’s important to just learn about it whether or not you agree with it. I think it’s shielding in a way. It’s shielding people from these teachings and people will learn about it in one way or another.”

She adds that the point of any course, such as world history, is to educate people, even if they don’t like it because it’s the truth and the truth shouldn’t be ignored. Bechdholt says that the class should be an option for interested students.

“I feel that they should keep the class for the people that want to take it,” Bechdholt said. “If you don’t wanna take the class then that’s fine because it may not pique your interest.”

Topics that will be discussed in the course include the Black Panthers, the Harlem Renaissance and the reign of Queen Nzinga Mbade, according to BestColleges.com.

“I have not really taught a class like this before but in my US history class, we do a lot of African American studies,” history teacher Brenda Helfing said. “We concentrate a lot in bringing that into US history. I’ve never taught it as an elective but I have a lot of stuff from my US history class that I’ll be using in this class.” 

Claridy says this course will not only teach African-American history but an understanding of African American culture. 

“People can develop consideration for Black People and take in their struggles,” Claridy said.

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