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College Board responds to comparisons between its AP course and Florida’s Black history curriculum

Books are piled in a classroom for students taking AP African American Studies at Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado, last fall. (Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

By Nicole Chavez and Justin Gamble, CNN

(CNN) — The College Board said Thursday it “resolutely” disagrees with any notion that enslavement was beneficial for African Americans – a statement coming after some people compared the contents of its Advanced Placement course on African American Studies with Florida’s recently approved Black history curriculum.

“We resolutely disagree with the notion that enslavement was in any way a beneficial, productive, or useful experience for African Americans,” the College Board told CNN on Thursday. “Unequivocally, slavery was an atrocity that cannot be justified by examples of African Americans’ agency and resistance during their enslavement.”

The board’s comments come after Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, tweeted on Wednesday what appears to be a screenshot of a portion of the College Board’s AP African American Studies course framework that refers to slavery. The document in part says students should know enslaved people learned trades that they used, once free, to provide for themselves and others.

In his tweet, Redfern wrote: “Remember when Florida wouldn’t allow that AP African American Studies course because it focused too much on CRT and not enough on history, and the @WhiteHouse lost its mind? Well, here is one of the standards considered ‘essential knowledge.’”

CNN has sought comment from the White House.

Black history education has been the focus of an ongoing debate in Florida. Last week, the Florida Board of Education approved a new set of standards for how Black history should be taught in the state’s public schools.

Some of the language in Florida’s new rules sparked criticism from education and civil rights advocates, including a requirement – as listed on the Florida Department of Education website – for middle school teachers to include “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

The screenshot posted by Redfern appears to be from a document on the College Board’s website detailing the AP African American Studies course framework for the 2023-2024 school year. The document says students should learn about the “range and variety of specialized roles” that enslaved people had.

“In addition to agricultural work, enslaved people learned specialized trades and worked as painters, carpenters, tailors, musicians, and healers in the North and South. Once free, African Americans used these skills to provide for themselves and others,” the course framework states.

The College Board told CNN it was aware that some had suggested the course requirements detailed on its AP African American Studies course framework aligned with some of Florida’s recently approved Black history standards.

“Unit two of the current framework includes a discussion about the skills enslaved people brought with them that enslavers exploited as well as other skills developed in America that were valuable to their enslavers,” the board said. “Enslaved Africans and their descendants used those skills to survive, build community, and create culture in resistance to their oppression.”

The College Board said its AP African American studies course “will offer a holistic introduction to the history, literature, and arts of Black people in the United States.”

The course is expected to be offered as a pilot for a second time in the 2023-2024 school year. A final framework for the course will be released later this year with the first version of the finalized course scheduled to be taught in the 2024-2025 school year, the College Board said.

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