By: Paige Britt, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY — Currently, Advanced Placement African American Studies is only taught in one high school in New Jersey. In the 2023-2024 academic year, the class will be taught in 26 New Jersey high schools. During a visit to Science Park High School this past week, Governor Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced the expansion of the class throughout the state, which is still in its two-year pilot program across the country.
Governor Murphy expressed the importance of the class, not only for students, but for the country as a whole.
“The expansion of AP African American Studies in New Jersey will grant our students the opportunity to learn about the innumerable ways in which Black Americans have shaped and strengthened our country,” Murphy stated. “As governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis prioritize political culture wars ahead of academic success, New Jersey will proudly teach our kids that Black History is American History. While the DeSantis Administration stated that AP African American Studies ‘significantly lacks educational value’, New Jersey will stand on the side of teaching our full history. We will set an example for the nation by demonstrating to our future leaders that our country is the greatest in the world because it is a work in progress, a promise, and an ideal we strive to achieve.”
According to The College Board, who designs all AP courses and testing, the AP African American Studies class will be a two-year course with four thematic sections. Students will be required to study literature, visual arts, music, data, and original historical documents. The four units will include the Origins of African Diaspora, Freedom, Enslavement, and Resistance, The Practice of Freedom, and Movements and Debates.
In the following academic school year, six schools in Newark will teach the AP African American Studies class. Since 2020, the Newark School District has been working to expand education on Black History by developing curriculum for students in K-11.
Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger Leon explained the significance of teaching Black History.
“In Newark, our African American History curriculum provides students the opportunity to explore primary and secondary sources that help students understand the history, contributions, talents, triumphs, and continuing challenges of African Americans,” Leon said. “The study of African American History, as a discrete field, is important to gaining a deeper, fuller understanding of United States History.”
Mayor of Newark Ras Baraka went on to emphasize how crucial the teaching of Black History is to young minds.
“In order to truly understand the complexities of our nation, students must be able to learn about all the facets of American History,” Baraka stated. “The study of African American History is integral in a child’s educational upbringing as it ensures that they learn a complete picture of what makes America, America. This country cannot afford to teach a revisionist history because doing so will only ensure that we repeat the mistakes of the past.”
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