Every February, a Black person is heard somewhere saying “we really only get one month, THE SHORTEST MONTH, to teach Black history??” February was chosen for a reason by the founder of Black history week, Carter G. Woodson. The late historian might be pleased that some high schools across the country have officially begun to teach AP African American Studies for the first time…and it’s for more than one month.
The College Board, the organization behind America’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses, launched a pilot program for 60 high schools to teach AP African American Studies. Amid right wingers using Black history as a political football to win over (i.e. scare) their voters into supporting conservative politicians in the past couple of years, schools quietly introduced the program this fall.
We know most of us got the MLK, Rosa Parks, and mayybbbe Malcolm X trifecta of lessons during Black History Month in high school. But here’s what else we hope is in the curriculum for the new AP pilot course.
Our ancestors weren’t just victims. Enslaved Africans took part in hundreds of uprisings across the U.S.
Hollywood regularly depicts slave stories where we’re abused and downtrodden. But Black people didn’t just accept the horrors of slavery casually. There were mutinies and rebellions throughout the Middle Passage and once Africans arrived on America’s shores. Enslaved Africans engaged in over 300 insurrections in the U.S. until the Civil War, according to some estimates. Nat Turner’s rebellion (depicted below) in 1831 was among them.
Rosa Parks was more militant than history books teach us
After Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama – a strategic move that helped spawn the Montgomery Bus Boycott—she faced immense backlash and had to retreat to Detroit, Michigan. During this period, she supported the self-defense strategy of the Black Panther Party and called Malcolm X her personal hero.
The March on Washington wasn’t just about voting and integration. It was largely about jobs and economic exploitation.
While conservatives love to butcher Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and cite his “I Have A Dream” speech, the 1963 rally where he delivered his famous words were about much more than integration. In fact, it was conceptualized and planned by two Black socialists, A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, who gave it the full name “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The rally was inspired by labor issues and racist workplace discrimination they saw in the decades prior to the 1963 march.
A. Phillip Randolph (L) and Bayard Rustin | Source: Bettmann
Black people aren’t just liberal, moderate, or conservative. Many have been revolutionary.
The Black Panther Party was known for its militancy and the powerful aesthetic of Black people sporting rifles and rocking fros and all-black fits. But the Panthers were steeped in revolutionary ideology that influenced revolutions against colonialism in Africa. Those revolutions in turn inspired Black Americans at home. The Panthers (like Kathleen Cleaver, pictured below) were rooted in anti-capitalism and studied socialist and communist theory. Political education was actually a requirement for anyone who wanted to join the party.
Kathleen Cleaver | Source: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
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