Our history is not something can just be cast aside.
Demand the College Board preserve Black and Brown histories in their AP courses.
Black history, our history, matters. Yet the College Board, the massive non-profit that administers Advanced Placement (AP) classes, is in the process of removing Black and Brown history from their AP World History course - a course taken by millions of students every year.1
Under new changes announced by the College Board, the AP World History course will no longer cover material prior to 1450—approximately the beginning of European colonialism. This alteration effectively erases the pre-colonial history of people of color from Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East. Instead of being one of the few opportunities for students across the country to learn about diverse histories and perspectives, the course will now reinforce the false centrality of white European colonialism in history.
Our history is not something can just be cast aside. But because of mounting pressure from students and teachers across the country to challenge the College Board’s decision we have a chance to make sure that it is not. The College Board has stated they are willing to reexamine their decision, but have not committed to any concrete changes, so we need to push for a full reinstatement of this content and a commitment to promote Black and Brown histories throughout their AP courses.
These changes to the AP World History course matter. We live in a country where the people in power tell Black and Brown students every day that their history and their lives don’t matter.2 A just history curriculum may be the only place where these students are exposed to histories beyond that of white Europeans.
In the past couple of years we’ve seen sustained efforts to erase Black and Brown histories from school curriculum. In Texas, the state school board pushed to downplay slavery as a cause of the Civil War and minimize the racial segregation of the Jim Crow era. Textbook publisher McGraw-Hill got caught calling African slaves “immigrants” and “workers.”3 Earlier this year, it was revealed that a far-right Koch Brothers backed group is offering free curriculum to budget strapped teachers, offering a revisionist version of slavery that paints it as a necessary evil to further freedom and democracy.4And just this week, Michigan announced a proposed curriculum change that would eliminate references to the NAACP, scale down the importance of the civil rights movement and eliminate mentions of gay rights, Roe v. Wade, and climate change.5
Our history is under constant attack, but because the College Board’s AP World History course is taught in thousands of schools to millions of students every year, the College Board plays a powerful role in setting de facto curriculum standards for all high school students. With this power, the College Board has the responsibility to ensure that students everywhere are exposed to histories beyond that of colonial Europeans and understand that the histories of Black and Brown people did not start when European colonists arrived in their lands.
What’s particularly cruel about the College Board’s decision to cut Black and Brown history from their AP course curriculum is that they are using it as an opportunity to push teachers to pay for their new and expensive “pre-AP courses” by offering to put the Black and Brown histories they removed into that course instead. But unlike the free curriculum for AP courses, pre-AP courses cost schools thousands of dollars a year effectively putting this content out of reach for most students.6
All too often, the rich pre-colonial history of Africa, Asia, Americas and the Middle East is either erased or merely left as a footnote. For students of color, who rarely see themselves represented in high school courses, this erasure tells them that they do not matter. The College Board says that they are “dedicated to equity in education.” If they are dedicated to equitable education, then they must not play a role in erasing Black and Brown histories.
Until justice is real,
Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Jade, Evan, Johnny, Future, Corina, Chad, Mary, Saréya, Eesha, Angela, Sam and the rest of the Color Of Change team
- "AP World History gets a makeover, and high school teachers rebel," Politico, 11 June 2018 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/59248?t=9&akid=14668%2E1942551%2EAv5edh
- "Donald Trump Says ‘Our Ancestors Tamed a Continent' and ‘We Are Not Going to Apologize for America’," Newsweek, 25 May 2018 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/59249?t=11&akid=14668%2E1942551%2EAv5edh
- "Texas textbook calling slaves 'immigrants' to be changed, after mom's complaint," LA Times, 5 October 2015 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/59250?t=13&akid=14668%2E1942551%2EAv5edh
- "Millions of Students Are Quietly Being Taught the Koch Brothers’ Whitewashed Version of Black History," The Root, 14 March 2018 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/59251?t=15&akid=14668%2E1942551%2EAv5edh
- "Proposed Michigan social studies standards erase references to gay rights, Roe v. Wade, and KKK ," Detroit Metro Times, 12 June 2018 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/59252?t=17&akid=14668%2E1942551%2EAv5edh
- "Teachers Fight To Keep Pre-Colonial World History In AP Course," Colorlines, 12 June 2018 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/59253?t=19&akid=14668%2E1942551%2EAv5edh
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