We are almost 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.
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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, Bayo Holsey, Woody Holton, Juliet Hooker, Daniel HoSang, Caroline Hossein, Jean Howard, LeAnne Howe, Peter James Hudson, Charles L. Hughes, Fiona Hughes-McDonnell, 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, 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, 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, Charles Wesley McKinney, Jr., Kimberly McLarin, Carolyn M. Jones Medine, Brian Meeks, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, Tiffany Williams-Rice, Terrion L. Williamson, Kenneth Williamson, Andre C. Willis, Sharon Willis, Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, Mabel O. Wilson, Folayemi Wilson, Folayemi Wilson, Aisha Wilson-Carter, Howard Winant, Erin N. Winkler, Joseph Winters, Lisa Ze Winters, Gretchen Woertendyke, Milford H. Wolpoff, Ronald C Woods, Donn C. Worgs, Dagmawi Woubshet, Earl Wright II, AK Wright, Ellen Wu, Richard Yarborough, Jasmine Noelle Yarish, Meina Yates-Richard, Alford Young, Jr., Bria L. Young, Praise Zenenga