Feb 1, 2023 - News

Miami students speak out after African American studies course canceled

Illustration of a book as the bottom of a padlock.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Several Miami high school students forced out of a pilot Advanced Placement course on African American studies rejected by the DeSantis administration say they feel "robbed" of their education.

Driving the news: Three Black students who were enrolled in the course this year at Robert Morgan Educational Center told the Miami Herald they had wanted to learn more about African American history and were shocked that state officials would cancel the class.

  • "We don't get a lot of chances to look into how African history plays into this country [and] we talked about serious topics that are hard to talk about," 18-year-old senior Cyara Pestaina told the Herald. "It was shocking to hear we'd stop midway through the year and be degraded to a class we didn’t choose."

Catch up fast: The College Board, which oversees AP classes, had been piloting the course at 60 schools across the country, including at Robert Morgan.

  • Earlier this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education blocked the AP class from being taught in the state, saying it violates state law and is historically inaccurate.
  • DeSantis said the course violates a law Florida lawmakers passed last year, dubbed the Stop WOKE Act, which bans instruction that defines people as oppressed or privileged based on their race, per the Associated Press.
  • Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz tweeted a chart outlining concerns with the course, including instruction on topics like reparations, "Intersectionality and Activism" and "Black Feminist Literary Theory."

The other side: The state's decision sparked widespread backlash from Black leaders, Florida lawmakers and governors in other states.

  • Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump accused the state of violating the federal and state constitutions, and threatened to sue if it did not reach an agreement with the College Board to reinstate the course.

What they're saying: Jaden Walter, a 17-year-old student at Robert Morgan, told the Herald he learned more about slavery and African American culture in his five months in the AP class than he had learned in any other history class before.

  • Walter said he believes there is a misconception that the course tears down American culture.
  • "The class didn't make me feel a different way or change how I see different cultures or white people," he told the newspaper. "It just made me feel that African Americans also had an impact. It doesn't have to bring their side down. It just brings our side up, too."

What we're watching: The College Board says it will release the "official framework" for the course today, the start of Black History Month, along with revisions based on pilot feedback from high schools and colleges.

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