Open Letter In Defense of AP African American Studies

We are over 800 African American Studies faculty, administrators, and allies in higher education at dozens of colleges and universities and we are concerned about the future of our field. We write this letter to broadcast our outrage at the efforts of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to delegitimize the AP’s pilot curriculum in African American Studies, to intimidate the College Board into appeasement and wholesale revisions, and to deny the young citizens of his state the world-class education to which they have a right.

After years of careful development, a curriculum for African American Studies is set to be released to the public this week, and is scheduled to be piloted in sixty high schools across the country in the 2024–25 school year. Ordinarily, after the curriculum is piloted, it is revised and ultimately approved by universities for Advanced Placement, giving high school students who complete the class an opportunity to skip introductory courses and get into their major quickly once they enter college. AP students are hard-working, high-achieving, and motivated to learn, and AP courses are typically the most rigorous offerings in any high school, factoring into college admissions decisions and college course placement.

DeSantis’s demeaning actions promise a bypass of this ordinary review. In January, the state’s education department sent a letter to the College Board notifying it that the curriculum is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” Roughly a week later, the state’s commissioner of education tweeted, “We proudly require the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education.” He cited the inclusion of internationally-respected scholars with years of award-winning scholarship, marking them as dangerous socialists. “We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think,” DeSantis put it this way a week ago, “but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them when you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”

This is censorship and a frontal attack on academic freedom. We categorically reject DeSantis’s autocratic claim to knowing what college-level material should be available in an AP African American Studies course. There is no precedent, of which we are aware, for him or the Florida Department of Education to claim expertise on any other subject matter for AP course adoption. No one person determines what is required for an AP class to receive credit at our colleges and universities. Contrary to DeSantis’s claims of promoting freedom in education, he is suppressing learning in his state and limiting the freedom of Florida students to choose what they can learn. He is destroying core educational principles that should be sacrosanct to all leaders in a democratic society.

We will not mince words. The contention that an AP curriculum in African American Studies “lacks educational value” is a proposition supported by white supremacist ideology, because it fundamentally demeans the history, culture, and contributions of Black people. This has terrible consequences for the young people of color who live in that state. It echoes other ongoing efforts across the United States to purge the public sphere of any mention of “divisive concepts,” or any conversation about the enduring fact of racism in the history of this nation, this hemisphere, and this world. It is also racism wrapped inside of homophobia. As such, it matches the Governor’s earlier — and ongoing — efforts to empty school library shelves of any book the state defines as “woke,” a purging that disproportionately impacts a broad body of work by Black and queer authors. If this broader effort to degrade, erase, and rewrite our history is successful, it would mean that the worst dystopias of science fiction have taken root, their encroachments on the classroom forcing us further down the path to an extraordinarily dangerous future.

Revisions should proceed in the normal customary fashion as established by the College Board in collaboration with educators, scholars, and institutional partners of its own choosing. We object to the effort of Governor DeSantis to circumvent the ordinary process for the review of an AP pilot curriculum. We object, as well, to his impoverished understanding of the significance of African American history, which has consequences for the young people of his state. We object to the offensive manner in which the Governor has yoked his efforts to extinguish the curriculum to a sprawling, multi-state effort to wield the power of the administrative state as a sword in these new culture wars. We object, finally, to the impact on young people, for whom the classroom is now a battleground, and who must sit with the words of their Governor, who has devalued the contributions of their forebears to American life, and wonder whether he sees them as citizens deserving to be educated or as pawns in the cruel combat he proposes.

Beyond these objections, we acknowledge the young people in Florida who are eager for this curriculum. We recognize our responsibility to ensure that the courses they take for college credit or placement are of the highest quality. And we promise them that we will work collectively to secure their access to this pilot curriculum, and also to the final AP course in African American Studies.

Signed,

Andrea Abrams

Cécile Accilien

Jessica Adams

Catherine L. Adams

Jessie L. Adolph

Andrea Y. Adomako

Tony Affigne

Vanessa Agard-Jones

Ujju Aggarwal

Carmel Agnant

Zahra Ahmed

Makungu M. Akinyela

Leslie M. Alexander

Shawn Leigh Alexander

H. Samy Alim

Carol Anderson

John W. Anderson Jr.

Naomi André

Ethan Andrews

Ana Aparicio

Heidi Ardizzone

Angela Ards

Toivo Asheeke

Susanna Ashton

Renee Ater

Geri Augusto

Sharon D. Wright Austin

Valerie Babb

Susan Coffin Babb

Constance Bailey

Mandi Bates Bailey

T. Dionne Bailey

Marlon M Bailey

Lee D. Baker

Laurie Baker

Laura Baker

Anthony Ballas

Oluwakemi M. Balogun

Simon Balto

Pompa Banerjee

Mari Ann Banks

Edward E. Baptist

Natasha Barnes

Riché J. Daniel Barnes

Mollie Barnes

Monica Patrice Barra

Jackson Christopher Bartlett

Scott Alves Barton

Gillian U. Bayne

David Beauzil

Herman Beavers

Sam Beck

Kathryn Bedecarré

Jesse Benjamin

Ruha Benjamin

Shanna G. Benjamin

Herman L. Bennett

Michele Tracy Berger

Emily Bernard

Julia W. Bernier

Iver Bernstein

Maya J. Berry

Daina Ramey Berry

Anne H. Berry

Latrica Best

Chandra Bhimull

Alisa Biggs

Adam Biggs

Lisa L. Biggs

Martha Biondi

Debarati Biswas

Keisha N. Blain

Cynthia Blair

Michael L. Blakey

David W. Blight

Kimberly Blockett

Ama Boakyewa

Anthony Bogues

A. Lynn Bolles

Zanice Bond

Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey

Eileen Boris

Darius Bost

Amanda Boston

Gloria Boutte

Merle L. Bowen

Rian Bowie

Laurian Bowles

Regina N. Bradley

Calandra Y. Branch

Lundy Braun

Jennifer DeVere Brody

Daphne Brooks

Robin Brooks

Andre Brooks-Key

Karida L. Brown

Vincent Brown

Carolyn A. Brown

J. Dillon Brown

Nadia E. Brown

Shan-Estelle Brown

Kimberly Nichele Brown

Khalilah L. Brown-Dean

Anthony P. Browne

La Marr Jurelle Bruce

Pem Davidson Buck

Tehama Lopez Bunyasi

Nicole Burrowes

Kim D. Butler

Lee H. Butler, Jr.

Sheretta T. Butler-Barnes

Patricia A Cahill

Kia Lilly Caldwell

Stephen Maynard Caliendo

Angelica Camacho

Horace G. Campbell

David Canton

A’Keitha Carey

Dominyse Carey

Omar Carmenates

Greg Carr

Rachel Carrico

Daniela Carrigo-Das

Bryan Carter

Prudence L. Carter

Judith Casselberry

Bianet Castellanos

N. Fadeke Castor

Elizabeth Cavicchi

Sarah Jane Cervenak

Julian C. Chambliss

Rachel Chapman

Sequaya Chapman

Katherine Charron

Michelle Coghill Chatman

Ayoka Chenzira

Dennis Childs

Mark Christian

Mark Cladis

Ainsworth A. Clarke

Andy Clarno

Rudolph Clay

Danielle P. Clealand

Jelani Cobb

Jesse Cohn

Monica A. Coleman

Robin R. Means Coleman

Daniel B. Coleman

Caroline Collins

Lisa Gail Collins

Barbara Harris Combs

Amanda Concha-Holmes

N. D. B. Connolly

Daniella Ann Cook

Pamela Cooper-White

Amelia Copp

Saroya Corbett

Regina Joice Cordy

Kat Cosby

Matthew J. Countryman

David Covin

Lisa Covington

Yolanda Covington-Ward

Aimee Meredith Cox

J. Gray Cox

Cornell L. Craig

Margo Natalie Crawford

Francoise Cromer

Ashley Crooks-Allen

Candi Sue Cross

William Crotty

Kevin E. Rivera Cruz

Michael Cucher

Prudence Cumberbatch

Cecelia Cutler

Qiana Cutts

Bianca Dang

Douglas Henry Daniels

Kyrah Malika Daniels

Timothy P. Daniels

Ashley C.J. Daniels

Amy Dao

Marlo D. David

Carole E. Boyce Davies

Mark Allan Davis

Sarita Davis

Amira Rose Davis

Chris Davis

Dana-Ain Davis

J. Dawuni

Smaran Dayal

Jamaica DelMar

John B. Diamond

David M. Diamond

J. Diaz

Angela D. Dillard

Cynthia Dobbs

Bobby J. Donaldson

Sonya Donaldson

Annika Doneghy

Ellen Doris

Kristin Doughty

Sara Douglas

Pearl K. Dowe

Anthony Downer II

John E. Drabinski

Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Daive Dunkley

Janeria Easley

Sasha-Mae Eccleston

Ugo F. Edu

Melise Edwards

Sharif El-Mekki

Jennifer Erickson

Catriona Rueda Esquibel

Stephanie Y. Evans

Marcelitte Failla

Deneia Y. Fairweather

Nessette Falu

Ashley D. Farmer

Navid Farnia

David P. Feldman

Crystal Felima

Max Felker-Kantor

Kevin Fellezs

Aisha K. Finch

Jessyka Finley

James Finley

Sheehan Fisher

Rebecka Rutledge Fisher

E’Lisha V. Fogle

Madeline Ford

Carol Foresta

Molly Gia Foresta

Murray Forman

Tyrone Forman

Allison Forte-Paul

Kierra D. Foster-Ba

Sekou Franklin

Lorrie Frasure

Tony Frazier

Marla Frederick

Valerie Fryer-Davis

Marisa J. Fuentes

Agustín Fuentes

Linda Fuller

Colette Gaiter

Kim Gallon

Allyson Ganster

Bill Gaskins

Jonathan Gayles

Caroline Gebhard

Abosede George

Clarence George III

Jessica Gerschultz

Khemani Gibson

Tiffany M. Gill

Katherine Gillen

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

Ronnese Kirton Glover

Phillip Atiba Goff

Kelly Goldberg

Kathie Stromile Golden

Kathryn Benjamin Golden

Margaret Goldman

Jennifer M. Gómez

Teresa Irene Gonzales

Robert Gooding-Williams

Jane Anna Gordon

Lewis R. Gordon

Michelle Y. Gordon

Charity T. Gordon

Yogita Goyal

Joshua R. Grace

Sandy Grande

Michelle Grant-Murray

Andrew C. Gray

Erin Gray

Jonathan W. Gray

Ricky K. Green

Dennis L. Green

Keith Green

K. Marshall Green

Christina M. Greer

Miles P. Grier

Farah Jasmine Griffin

Valerie Grim

Ricky D Grisson, II

Kali Gross

Matthew Guariglia

Allison Guess

Nichole Guillory

Holly Guise

Liena Gurevich

Frank Guridy

Matthew Pratt Guterl

Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Margaret A. Hagerman

Sarah Haley

Kim F. Hall

Sherine Hamdy

Tikia K. Hamilton

Françoise N. Hamlin

Evelynn M. Hammonds

Rachel E. Harding

Mariah Harmon

Erin Harper

Cheryl I. Harris

Fredrick C. Harris

Khadene Harris

Leslie M. Harris

Mary McDonnell Harris

Robert L. Harris, Jr.

Conor M. Harrison

Faye V. Harrison

Anthony Kwame Harrison

William David Hart

Melanee C. Harvey

April Haynes

Kerry L Haynie

Courtney Heath

Gregg Hecimovich

Yousra Hegazy

Vanessa Hein

Obery M. Hendricks, Jr.

James C. Hendrix

Kelly Lytle Hernández

Kamela Heyward-Rotimi

Marc Lamont Hill

Ron Himes

Maude Hines

Elizabeth Hinton

Maurice Hobson

Sharon Patricia Holland

Alexis Ligon Holloway

Bayo Holsey

Woody Holton

Juliet Hooker

Daniel HoSang

Caroline Hossein

Jean Howard

LeAnne Howe

Peter James Hudson

Charles L. Hughes

Fiona Hughes-McDonnell

Susan B. Hyatt

Christy Hyman

David Igler

Tammy Ingram

Abdul-Qadir D. Islam

Deena Isom

Moraima Ivory

Sujata Iyengar

Vijay Iyer

Sarah J Jackson

Lawrence Jackson

Lanita Jacobs

Matthew Frye Jacobson

Ermitte Saint Jacques

Erica Caple James

Felix Jean-Louis

Anne M. Jennings

Terri Jett

Joseph O. Jewell

Claire Jiménez

Mónica A. Jiménez

Catherine John

Birgitta Johnson

Stevie Johnson

Walter Johnson

Valerie C. Johnson

Herbert Johnson

Marquez Johnson

Marcus Johnson, Jr.

Cherith Johnson

Sara E. Johnson

Dianne Johnson-Feelings

Tabatha L. Jones Jolivet

Andrew Jolivette

Adanna Kai Jones

Nikki Jones

Stephanie Jones

Jasmine Blanks Jones

Jovonna Jones

Stephanie Jones

Meta DuEwa Jones

Julia S. Jordan-Zachery

Roberto Joseph

Tiffany D. Joseph

Charles Wesley McKinney, Jr.

Helen Jun

Grace Shin Hae Jun

Walter Kalaidjian

Robin D. G. Kelley

Lydia Kelow-Bennett

Cheryl L Keyes

Rob Kilgore

Joyce E. King

Shannon King

Tiffany Lethabo King

Elgin Klugh

Kristin Kopp

Gopal Krishnamurthy

Esther Viola Kurtz

Peter Kurtz

Lara Kuykendall

Karyn Lacy

Sonja Lanehart

Aja M. Lans

Ana-Maurine Lara

Judi Moore Latta

Isiah Lavender III

Seanna Leat

Calinda Lee

Ernest Lee

Adriane Lentz-Smith

Ainsley LeSure

Susan G. Letcher

Amanda E. Lewis

David Levering Lewis

Jacquelyn A. Lewis- Harris

Angela K. Lewis-Maddox

Natasha Lightfoot

Erika T. Lin

Veronica A. Lippencott

Lahronda Welch Little

Samuel T. Livingston

Lindsay Livingston

Susi Long

A. Louis

Bertin M. Louis, Jr.

Bettina L. Love

John Wharton Lowe

Candice Lowe-Swift

Ashley Lucas

Natalie De Lucca

Sharon Luk

Stephen Maizlish

Minkah Makalani

Celeste Malone

Larissa Malone

Behailu Mammo

Ajuan Mance

Brandon J. Manning

Velina Manolova

John D. Márquez

Kameelah L. Martin

Shiela Harmon Martin

Anthony F. Martin

Nicole Scaffold Maskiell

Christopher D. Massenburg

J. Lorand Matory

Valerie N. Matthews

Portia K. Maultsby

William J. Maxwell

Renae D. Mayes

Kyle T. Mays

Barbara McCaskill

Paula D. McClain

Irma McClaurin

Andrew McClellan

Stacie McCormick

Austin McCoy

Jeffrey Q. McCune, Jr.

Shaka McGlotten

Michelle McKinley

Kimberly McLarin

Carolyn M. Jones Medine

Brian Meeks

Eston Melton IV

M. Mena

Nina Angela Mercer

Lisa Merrill

John Michael

Jamila Michener

Monica L. Miller

Candace N. Miller

Jesse Mills

Michael Minta

Dana Francisco Miranda

Angelyn Mitchell

Koritha Mitchell

Elise A. Mitchell

Gladys Mitchell-Walthour

Stephanie Y. Mitchem

Deborah M. Mix

Hellena Moon

Darrell Moore

Dani Parker Moore

Douglas Moore

Mignon R. Moore

Amelia Moore

Frank E. Moorer

John F. Moran

Lorenzo Morris

Courtney Desiree Morris

Yolanda T. Moses

Guy Emerson Mount

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Meir Muller

John A. Mundell

Marlene Munn-Joseph

Naomi Murakawa

Donna Murch

Lina-Maria Murillo

Premilla Nadasen

Paul E. Nahme

Celia E. Naylor

Samson K. Ndanyi

Rosemary Ndubuizu

Mark Anthony Neal

Robert D. Newman

Akasemi Newsome

Dana Nickson

Worku Nida

Kimberly Jade Norwood

Naomi Nubin-Sellers

Shayla C. Nunnally

Nadia Nurhussein

Pamela Nwakanma

Robert O’Meally

Stephen O’Neill

Keith Obadike

Mendi Obadike

JeffreyO. G. Ogbar

Elisa Oh

Valerie A. Olson

Matthew Omelsky

Lakeya Omogun

Eyitayo Onifade

Valerie K. Orlando

Brenda Marie Osbey

Oyeronke Oyewumi

Adashima Oyo

Nell Irvin Painter

Peter A. Palmiotto

Shanti Parikh

Django Paris

Rae Paris

Alison M. Parker

Anna Parkinson

Vimala C. Pasupathi

Leslie Patrick

Mary Pattillo

Stacey Patton

Philana Payton

Tiffany Peacock

Rosemarie Peña

Anthony P. Pennino

Gabriel Peoples

Elizabeth Pérez

Evelyn M. Perry

Imani Perry

Kennetta Hammond Perry

Georgia Persons

Dane Peters

Charles F. Peterson

Dewayne E Pettiford

Miriam J. Petty

Evelyn Newman Phillips

Kwame Phillips

Danielle Phillips-Cunningham

Jemima Pierre

Aminah Pilgrim

Sam Plasencia

Janelle Poe

Mieka Brand Polanco

Elizabeth Polcha

Albert Ponce

Eric Porter

Raquel Portes

Sonya Posmentier

Scott Poulson-Bryant

Elliott H. Powell

Melanye T. Price

Danielle Purifoy

Brian J. Purnell

H. L. T. Quan

Amy Yeboah Quarkume

Andrea Queeley

Jean Muteba Rahier

Leigh Raiford

Tara Raines

Michael Ralph

9Antonia Randolph

Malini Ranganathan

Claudia Rankine

Susan Rauchwerk

Victor Ray

Shana L. Redmond

De Anna Reese

Joshua L. Reid

Jennifer Reynolds

Jordan Reznick

Jane Rhodes

Saint Rice

Riché Richardson

Boris E. Ricks

Dannie Ritchie

Sarah Ruffing Robbins

Nikia S. Robert

Dorothy E. Roberts

Christopher Roberts

Tomeka M. Robinson

Rona Robinson-Hil

ReAnna S. Roby

Cheryl R. Rodriguez

Mónica Russel y Rodriguez​​

David R. Roediger

Melvin L. Rogers

Ariel Rogers

Reuel R. Rogers

L. Kaifa Roland

Oliver Rollins

Louis Philippe Römer

Noliwe Rooks

Lilia Raquel Rosass

Tricia Rose

kihana miraya Ross

Ajanet S. Rountree

Martin Ruck

Walter C. Rucker

Clair Rutherford

Emily Ruth Rutter

Eunice Sahle

Zoé Samudzi

Petal Samuel

Crystal R. Sanders

Xiomara Santamarina

Déborah Berman Santana

Roslyn M. Satchel

Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Nina Glick Schiller

Lisa Schneier

Stuart Schrader

Abbe Schriber

Darieck Scott

Jamil S. Scott

Lawrence Scott

Carjie Scott

Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz

Gunja SenGupta

Jorge Serrano

Christina Sharpe

Todd C. Shaw

Tommie Shelby

Matthew Shenoda

Tanya L. Shields

Kmt G. Shockley

Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva

Kimberly Eison Simmons

Katrina Rochelle Sims

Angela D. Sims

Kerry Sinanan

Valeria Sinclair-Chapman

Sharlene Sinegal-DeCuir

Phil Sinitiere

Althea Sircar

Lauren Rebecc Sklaroff

Christine M. Slaughter

Calvin John Smiley

Andrea L Smith

Sandra Susan Smith

Megan C. Smith

Faith Smith

C. Riley Snorton

Verónica Sousa

Robyn C. Spencer-Antoine

Nicole A. Spigner

Derrick R. Spires

Chy L. Sprauve

L.H. Stallings

James Daniel Steele

David Stein

Howard Stein

Lynn Stephen

Jeffrey Stewart

Dianne M. Stewart

David Omotoso Stovall

Maya Stovall

Caroline A. Streeter

SaraEllen Strongman

Angela Stuesse

Federico Subervi

Carl Suddler

LaShandra Sullivan

Martin Summers

Jaimee A. Swift

Lindsey R. Swindall

Jasmine Syedullah

Michael Szalay

Bonnie H. Tai

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwo

Benjamin Talton

Palak Taneja

Ruby C. Tapia

Twila Tardif

Stephanie Peebles Tavera

Ashley Coleman Taylor

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Paul C. Taylor

Ula Taylor

Shirley Taylor

Eileene Tejada

Carine Terras

Elmo Terry-Morgan

Miriam Thaggert

Jeanne Theoharis

Darryl Thomas

Griselda D. Thomas

Najmah Thomas

Valorie D. Thomas

Heather Ann Thompson

Lisa B. Thompson

Vetta L Sanders Thompson

Shatema Threadcraft

Alvin B. Tillery, Jr.

Salamishah Tillet

Shonna Tillman

Heidi Tinsman

Cedric Tolliver

Nancy D. Tolson

Nancy Tomes

Kyla Wazana Tompkins

Jada Benn Torres

Cecelia Traugh

Linda M. Trautman

Mercedes Trigos

Jessica Trounstine

Jeffrey Allen Tucker

Tamelyn Tucker-Worgs

Patricia A. Turner

Robin L. Turner

Akinyele Umoja

Megan Unden

Gwen Urey

Miguel A. Valerio

Tracy L. Vaughn-Manley

Seneca Vaught

Desiree Vega

Hanétha Vété-Congolo

Jose Vilson

Alan M. Wald

Karen E. Waldron

Vanessa Siddle Walker

Corey D. B. Walker

David Jon Walker

Katie Walkiewicz

Erik Wallenberg

Honey Walrond

Shane Bolles Walsh

Rebecca Wanzo

Geoff Ward

Shanee A. Washington

Michole Washington

M. Billye Sankofa Waters

Eric King Watts

Elsa K. Weber

Carol Marie Webster

Jacqueline de Weever

Debbie Weinstein

Cornel West

Elizabeth J. West

Victoria Whaley

Tiffany Wheatland-Disu

Alexandre White

Deborah Gray White

Derrick E. White

Betina Cutaia Wilkinson

Chad Williams

Erica Lorraine Williams

Matthew Wesley Williams

Judith Williams

Ronald Williams II

Brian S. Williams

Lyneise Williams

Jakobi Williams

Tiffany Williams-Rice

Terrion L. Williamson

Kenneth Williamson

Andre C. Willis

Sharon Willis

Tiffany Willoughby-Herard

Mabel O. Wilson

Folayemi Wilson

Folayemi Wilson

KiMi Wilson

Aisha Wilson-Carter

Howard Winant

Erin N. Winkler

Joseph Winters

Lisa Ze Winters

Tracey Witherspoon

Gretchen Woertendyke

Milford H. Wolpoff

Ronald C Woods

Louis Woods

Donn C. Worgs

Dagmawi Woubshet

Earl Wright II

AK Wright

Ellen Wu

Richard Yarborough

Jasmine Noelle Yarish

Meina Yates-Richard

Bria L. Young

Alford Young, Jr.

Praise Zenenga

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