Florida faith leaders unite behind embattled AP African American Studies course

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A group of faith leaders is coming together to fight the state of Florida’s proposal to eliminate African American studies and diversity programs.

An advanced placement (AP) course currently in development offers high school students an evidence-based introduction to African American studies, and the Florida Department of Education rejected it.

“For me and other pastors, this is not about politics; it’s about heritage,” said Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr. “This is about history.”

History is one of three words at the center of a clear divide between faith leaders and the Florida Department of Education. Leaders want the state to overturn its decision to ban a new AP African American studies course in all public schools. Governor Ron DeSantis did not make the decision, but he supports it because it followed state law.

“We want education, not indoctrination,” DeSantis said. “If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline… If it’s education, then we will do. We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them.”

The governor is referencing topic 4.19 for the course titled ‘Black Queer Stories,’ topic 4.29 ‘Movements for Black Lives,’ and topic 4.15 ‘Intersectionality and Activism.’

A Jan. 20 tweet from Manny Diaz, Florida’s commissioner of education, also referenced that theory. The department’s specific concerns involved reading included in the AP course.

“When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes,” DeSantis said.

Faith leaders said they just want African American history to be taught; nothing more and nothing less.

“This is personal for us, our children, our grandchildren, and future generations of African Americans in this country,” said Commissioner Curtis Richardson.

According to the College Board website, this course is focused on exploring the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans across all subjects, including authors like the one who wrote that included reading.

AP African American Studies course concerns. (Credit: Florida Department of Education)

Faith leaders are prepared to take it as far as they need to.

“We’re here today to tell the governor that we are not going to stand by and just let these things happen to African Americans in our state,” said Tallahassee Commissioner Curtis Richardson. “African American history is American history.”

This coalition of African American leaders promises that if the Department of Education and the governor fail to realize that, they’ll work as hard and as long as they need to to ensure the nation does.

“Black history ought to be taught consistently and persistently without the government overreaching,” said Holmes.

Overreaching is what these religious leaders say the government is doing.

“If we believe in parental rights, you know what, why is the government making a decision for parents? If you believe in parental rights, then let the parent make that decision,” Holmes said.

Holmes said if the state does nothing to reverse its decision by February 16, the Reverand Al Sharpton and others will go to Tallahassee. “On February 16, we’ll be bringing Reverend Sharpton and other civil rights leaders and faith-based leaders to Tallahassee to continue to beat the drum about why African American history is important.”

According to the Department of Education, state lawmakers would have to change the law for it to change its ruling.

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