Some experts are wary. Cheryl Harris, a legal scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a leading thinker in the field of critical race theory, has helped organize the May 3 protest. In an interview on Monday, she said she hoped the College Board had learned that it could not appease a political movement that, in her words, was seeking to “censor and suppress” ideas.
An analysis last year by the education publication Chalkbeat found that 36 states had moved toward restricting education on race.
Professor Harris argued that scholars whose ideas had been removed from the Advanced Placement course should be included in the process to revise the curriculum, to re-establish trust within the discipline and “bring some degree of transparency” to the development process.
She named, among others, Kimberlé Crenshaw, the originator of the concept of intersectionality, which refers to the complex ways that overlapping facets of identity, such as race, class, sex and gender, shape individual experiences of the world.
The College Board has had high hopes for the course, introducing it at a glittery reception in February at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian. In its recent statement, the board said that interest in the African American studies class was widespread across the country, with 800 schools and 16,000 students expected to take the pilot course during the next school year, up from 60 schools this year.
Matthew Guterl, a professor of Africana and American studies at Brown, had criticized the curriculum as “lacking the intellectual heft and moral urgency” that students needed. Reacting to the news that the College Board planned to revise the curriculum once again, he said, “They may now realize that they can’t be supplicants to Ron DeSantis any longer.”
Anemona Hartocollis contributed reporting.