Separating minority histories from American history only serves to alienate not educate


Gabrielle Wheeler '23

The creation of AP African American Studies alienates Black Americans, dividing United States history into Black and white.

The American population is not homogenous.  It is a blend of cultures, races, ethnicities, and languages.  Hence, Black history is America’s history.  Last year, the College Board announced its first new Advanced Placement (AP) course since 2014.  The organization’s fortieth course, AP African American Studies, is the College Board’s first ethnic studies course and some regard its publication as a step in acknowledging this field of study.  Although the majority of US high school students would potentially have access to this course starting 2024, every school does not offer the same AP courses.  If this course fails to be a widely required course such as AP United States History, then numerous students might never even learn about Black history.  The only purpose the AP African American course serves is to further alienate Black students by separating their history from that of white Americans.  Instead, the AP African American Studies curriculum should form part of the AP US History course content.

The announcement of the course comes after some states have required public high schools to offer Black and Latinx history electives.  Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced Public Act 19-12 December 2020, which required Connecticut public high schools to offer electives that explore Black, Latinx, and Puerto Rican contributions to the United States (US).  Mandated elective history is not enough, all schools need to require Black history.  Therefore, the content of AP African American Studies should be in the AP US History course.

The College Board partnered with the Smithsonian Museum and Howard University, a historically Black university, to bring this course to high schools.  60 schools are participating in the first year of the pilot program to test the course for the College Board, according to The New York Times.  This will increase to 200 schools in the program’s second year.

This is a two-year pilot program and the course will officially open to all schools that offer the AP curriculum in the 2024-2025 school year.  Students enrolled in the class this year will have the option to take the AP exam, but will not receive college credit for their scores on the test, if eligible.  As the College Board declined to release a sample curriculum for the course, information about the course comes from teachers and students involved in the course’s trial run, according to The New York Times.  A complete course outline will be available on the College Board website in the spring of 2024, according to  AP African American Studies includes lessons on the Black Power movement, the Atlantic slave trade, the Reconstruction era, and the origins of the African diaspora, according to  This curriculum should be present in the AP US History course, not purely in a separate elective. 

The College Board hopes to encourage more Black students to take AP classes.  In 2021, the Center for American Progress reported that Black students do not enroll at a rate that is comparable to their Asian and white peers, according to  Certain AP courses, such as AP Computer Science Principles, receive greater funding than other courses to bring the class to majority-Black high schools.  At some high schools, Black students are less likely to enroll in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) APs than other APs.  The creation of an AP course dedicated to studying Black history might only serve to enforce that some classes are for Black students while others are not.  To combat this stereotype, the College Board should rework its AP US History curriculum to include Black history.   

As an elective AP, African American Studies will let students decide whether or not Black history is relevant to their education.  Gabrielle Wheeler ’23

Ms. Sharon Courtney, a teacher in Peekskill, New York whose school is participating in the pilot program, thinks the course will help to standardize in the curriculum for African American studies across high schools in the US, according to  Over 80 percent of all US high schools offer at least one AP course on-site, according to  Even so, it is still up to schools to decide whether or not they will offer this course and up to students to decide whether or not they will enroll. 

Some proponents argue that this course signifies the acceptance of African American studies as a field.  Dr. Donald Singleton, an AP instructor at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, California, regards the course as a way to place Black history classes on the same level as other history classes.  

“There has never been an AP course focusing on Africa and African Americans,” Dr. Singleton said, according to  “It is a distinct privilege and honor to elevate AP African American Studies to the level of AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP Human Geography, and AP European History.”

Sacred Heart Greenwich and many other US high schools offer AP Human Geography and AP Comparative Government and Politics as elective classes while requiring US History.  African American studies needs to be a required class, not an elective.

While some argue that an elective class means students are more interested and want to be in the class, at many schools, students do not have a choice to enroll in US History.  Elective Black history classes mean that a group of people will remain uneducated on the topic.  It is important for students to see Black history deemed necessary for all to learn.  The separation of the course from the AP US History class instills the idea that Black history is extra and not part of the history of the US that we all should know.  The prospect of adding content to an already dense and lengthy course may seem daunting, but the College Board must include Black history in the curriculum or it cannot claim that AP US History addresses all pivotal moments in the development of the US. 

Mr. Marlon Williams-Clark, a social studies teacher in Tallahassee, Florida, thinks that the course will fill holes in knowledge of Black history, according to  Mr. Williams-Clark, specifically expects the course to teach topics that are left out of the US History curriculum, such as the contributions of Black Americans.  Yet the course should not have to close gaps in instruction in US History classes because there should not be any.  This course should not be another way to appease those who want to be taught their history or learn the history of their peers.  The history of Black Americans needs to be alongside the history of every other American.

The US population of color reached 39.9 percent of the population in 2019, confirming that there is more to the story than what the current AP US History course holds.  Courtesy of

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker who created 21 documentaries and authored or co-authored 24 books about the African and Black American experience.  Dr. Gates considers the creation of AP African American Studies a huge step in the right direction, claiming the course’s creation conveys the ultimate acceptance of African American studies. 

Acceptance would be to teach Black history in the same US History class as white history.  The ultimate acceptance is history classes that recognize the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans, showing that American history is not just history from a white perspective. 

Ms. Maya Angelou, American poet and author, wrote many works that delved into racial discrimination, economic oppression, and gender inequality.  Ms. Angelou brought these issues to the forefront of people’s minds with her poetry and her autobiography.  While not speaking in reference to this AP class, Ms. Angelou spoke about her hope for the future of US History classes.

“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book,” Ms. Angelou said, according to  “Just U.S. History.” 

American history classes need to feature the history of minorities, or they cannot claim to teach American history.  While adding more content to an already content-dense AP US History course seems unfathomable to some, it should be required for US students to take a deep dive into the history of the country in which they live.  The history of Black Americans and other minorities should not be extra.  Enrollment in US History is not a choice in many US schools, so should be enrollment in a Black history class.  If US History does not teach the stories of everyone, then the College Board should rename the class to reflect the population studied.  We are all American and our history needs to be presented in every US History course.

Featured Image by Gabrielle Wheeler ’23