“We’re not Florida. We’re Evanston.”

With that stinging rebuke of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, ETHS Board of Education Vice-President Monique Parsons succinctly summed up her colleagues’ feelings about the Advanced Placement course in African American Studies.

ETHS is one of 60 high schools nationwide which are piloting the course this school year. Several hundred more schools will join in for 2023-24, with the full nationwide rollout the year after that.

AP classes teach college-level materials in high school, and, if a student scores high enough on the end-of-course AP exam, they can earn college credit. There are nearly 40 such courses.

AP African American Studies became part of the national political culture wars when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned the class from his state, saying it contained left-wing poltical indoctrination.

History teacher Kamasi Hill not only teaches the AP African American Studies class at ETHS, but was also one of more than 300 scholars around the country who helped develop the 234-page curriculum.

Kamasi Hill teaches the AP African American Studies class at ETHS, and helped develop the course for the College Board.

“We were told early on that there would be some challenges,” Hill told the District 202 Board of Education on Monday night.

“African American Studies have been tough to get in college, let alone in high school.”

Hill noted that at ETHS, African American studies has a long history which included “battles and struggles” when the late Hecky Powell led a sit-in in 1969 to get a Black studies course at the school.

Hill added that the opposition by DeSantis and other conservative critics “is just another chapter in the struggle to make the history of African Americans visible to the entire nation.”

After the Florida political pushback against some of the course’s content, the College Board, which administers AP exams, dropped some topics from the mandatory portion of the class, such as the Movement for Black Lives, intersectionality (overlapping types of discrimination), and Black gay issues.

The Board insisted, however, that those changes were coming anyway, before the DeSantis attacks.

Hill said he wanted to “correct the record,” because of so much misinformation in the public and the media about what is exactly going on with the course.

He said that while some topics have been removed from what’s required to be taught to prepare for the AP exam, a significant research paper is also required. Issues which were deleted from the mandatory curriculum are still very much allowed for whatever a student may chose for the paper, Hill noted.

“Black conservatism” was also included as a potential topic for the research assignment.

The curriculum is divided into four sections: The African Diaspora; Freedom, Enslavement and Resistance (which ETHS teacher Hill helped develop); The Practice of Freedom; and Movements and Ideas.

While it’s unclear if Florida will now approve the course for its high schools, the controversy has done one thing which critics may not like.

More students want to take it.

At ETHS, eight students are in the class this year.

Hill said that there may need to be “multiple sections” in the fall.

While slavery and racism are, of course, critical and central components of African American history, the ETHS teacher also noted that this particular class does not only cover “gloom and doom and oppression.”

He also said AP African American Studies covers “the beauty” of Black life, “the contributions, the loves, the songs, and the hopes.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


    1. Having love and pride in self, leads to better efforts in everything. I agree with you on having the course.

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