Oak Park school among first to teach AP African American Studies class

CHICAGO (CBS) – A high school in suburban Oak Park is making history by being the first in the state to offer a new Advanced Placement African American Studies course

The AP program at Oak Park and River Forest High School gives high school students an opportunity to take a college-level course before graduating. The program offers 38 subjects, including English literature and composition, U.S. government and politics, statistics, and art history.

However, the African American Studies course at Oak Park River Forest High School is a first of its kind.

"We are actually one of the pilot schools for the AP program, period," said Tyrone Williams, a teacher at OPRF.

Williams teaches the course at the school, the first high school in the entire state to pilot the program. So far, it's been a hit with students.

"This history is so important, and it's hard to imagine not having the opportunity to learn it," said junior Zoie Segbawu.

Langston Short, another junior, added, "I think it's a really entertaining class because history classes will teach you a lot about African Americans and where it originated and how we got to America, but what I really appreciate about this class is how it goes into depth about where it happened, how it happened, when it happened, with who it happened."

OPRF was one of only 60 high schools nationwide chosen to be a part of the College Board's national rollout of the new course.

"I always forget this isn't just the normal class for everyone in the country because I don't know, it feels like that, even though it's new, it feels like a class that should have been here before, like before this time," said senior Elise Borel.

Williams, who addresses his students by calling them "scholars," praised their performance in the classroom.

"They amaze me," he said. "I mean, the way they show up every single day prepared and ready to go, there's no other way for me to do it."

The College Board's course is divided into four units: Origins of African Diaspora; Freedom, Enslavement and Resistance; The Practice of Freedom; and Movements and Debates.

"We've gone through the history of Ethiopia, places like that, and how the movement of the people in those areas," said junior Andre Stanton.

The curriculum also includes lessons on Black queer studies, reparations, and movements like Black Lives Matter. Such content was rejected by Florida's Education Department.

"The reality is, our young people, they want to have a luxury that those folks that are pushing a consensus agenda," Williams said.

More than a year ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended his decision to block a high school AP course on African American Studies. He said the course's inclusion of lessons on Black queer theory and the prison abolition movement didn't meet the state's standards.

"Whether people want to support it or not, we have to connect meaningful in this country in order to move our democracy along," Williams said.

School officials said they feel confident the AP African American Studies class will be offered next year.

"People should know that this class is relevant to their history, whether they think it or not," said Segbawu. "But African American history is everyone's history."

The school's superintendent believes hundreds of other local schools will implement AP African American Studies in the coming school year.

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