I teach AP African American Studies. Here’s why the course is important

March 6, 2023 6:54 am

Alnazir Blackman teaching his students during an AP African American Studies class in Science Park High School in Newark. (Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor's Office)

As a state with a rich and diverse history, New Jersey has long been a melting pot of cultures, experiences, and traditions.

But despite this diversity, the contributions and experiences of African Americans in our state and our country have often been overlooked or underrepresented in our educational system.

Incorporating AP African American Studies into New Jersey high school curriculums is critical for promoting diversity, inclusivity, cultural understanding, and critical thinking skills in our students. By teaching this course to our high schoolers, we can better prepare them for success in higher education, while also countering misinformation and building a stronger, more cohesive community.

It is time to recognize the importance of African American Studies and to take action to ensure that our students are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in an increasingly diverse and complex society.

Including AP African American Studies in high school curriculums allows students to learn about the experiences and contributions of African Americans throughout history and in our state, helping them to appreciate and value multifariousness, a critical element in today’s society. The course is designed to serve students from all ethnic backgrounds who can benefit from the indispensable developments of every social, academic, artistic, and technological medium within American culture.

The class fosters cultural understanding. Learning about African American history allows students who are not African American to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the contributions of African Americans to the world we live in today. This is crucial for building an accepting, more cohesive, and inclusive community for tomorrow.

Including AP African American Studies in high school curriculums can also help to counter misinformation. Unfortunately, many students are exposed to inaccurate and incomplete information about African American history and culture through mainstream media and popular culture. By providing a more comprehensive and accurate perspective, AP African American Studies can counter harmful narratives, giving students a better understanding of the complexities and nuances of African American experiences.

A whiteboard displays a lesson in Alnazir Blackman’s AP African American Studies class in Science Park High School in Newark. (Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor’s Office)

According to a study from the College Board, students who take AP courses are more likely to graduate from college and are more likely to graduate within four years. Offering AP African American Studies courses will help prepare students for college-level work and increase their chances of academic success while also allowing students to become more engaged and informed citizens, equipped to navigate complex issues and make informed decisions.

Students of color are disproportionately represented among low-performing students and are less likely to have access to high-quality education, according to a report from the Education Trust. Offering the AP African American Studies course helps close this achievement gap by providing a rigorous and engaging curriculum that challenges and supports students of color, leveling the playing field for these students who may face systemic barriers to high-quality education.

I am incredibly proud of our governor, Phil Murphy, for stepping out on the front lines to emphasize the importance of AP African American Studies.

Having the governor step into my classroom as a first-year teacher was nerve-wracking but very empowering. I did not know what to expect, but I wanted him to see the impactful work we had been doing at Science Park High School in Newark.

Everything went better than I could have expected. My students did such an amazing job, and Gov. Phil Murphy was a joy to have in the classroom! The students showcased the kind of learning that takes place in an African American history classroom.

The governor’s presence in my classroom serves as an indicator of the importance of the AP African American Studies course. Gov. Murphy understands what this class will do for students thirsty for more understanding of the African American experience.


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