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The AP African American Studies course explained

Zakiya Adair
Zakiya Adair, professor of African American Studies.

The College Board recently released a framework for an Advanced Placement African American Studies course that became the focus of national headlines after Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida blocked the course from being taught in Sunshine State schools. Last week, Governor Phil Murphy announced he was expanding the instruction of AP African American Studies here in New Jersey.

Zakiya Adair, associate professor in the African American Studies Department at TCNJ, was one of 132 college faculty on an advisory committee who developed the criteria for the course. We turn to her as an insider to the AP process to tell us the top 5 things we need to know about AP African American Studies beyond the headlines. Here’s what she says:

1) This course was not just haphazardly put together. The AP program first researched it as possibility a decade ago. Then they began developing the actual course during the pandemic and the social justice uprisings. A small group of very distinguished faculty came up with themes and a syllabus template that would provide rigorous study in African American history equivalent to a college-level introduction course. In 2021, my group of 132 reviewed it, participated in workshops, and gave our opinions of what materials work or not and what content what was missing.

2) One of the biggest things we determined was: How is this course different from AP U.S. History? Because the U.S. History course went through revisions awhile ago to include American colonialism and American slavery. So the AP African American Studies course needed to talk about pre-colonial Africa, the field of black studies and the Black campus movement.

3) This is a unique AP course in that it’s interdisciplinary. Students are going to be exposed to literature and history and sociology and political science all in one. Students will get experience working with disparate sources and materials to help with critical thinking skills and that’s going to really benefit them when they are in college.

4) I can remember how frustrating it was to be a Black girl in a very white school in California. I yearned for something that reflected me. Now a student like me can be inspired by a course in African American studies. And the AP program acknowledged the depth and the significance of the field. I’m hoping that it will also inspire students to major in African American studies.

5) TCNJ was invited to be listed among the more than 200 institutions recognizing this course for credit or placement. We are signed on. We’re very excited.

— Kara Pothier MAT ’08