Rejection of Black history sparks rally for AP course

Rev. RB Holmes (left) met with reporters last Thursday.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

While Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t saying much about a revised version of the Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum, organizers are moving ahead with plans to stage a rally over the governor’s initial rejection of the course.

The rally is expected to be the high watermark of responses to the Florida Education Department’s rejection of the original version of the AP course, which was released last month.

Rev. RB Holmes said the rally will bring together several civil rights leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Benjamin Crump. Holmes gave details of the rally during a meeting with members of the media last Thursday at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, where he is pastor.

The rally is a “march of consciousness to say to the world there are some people in Florida totally against going back to the 1800s,” Holmes said. “If two come or 2,000 we are going to raise our voices. We cannot sit idly by and make Florida become the model of hatred, segregation, exclusion, inequity and no diversity.”

The rally is scheduled to begin at Bethel at 11 a.m. on Feb. 15. A march to the Capitol will follow and the event is scheduled to conclude at 2 p.m.

DeSantis’ rejection of the AP course comes at a time when he is moving to make several other changes in education statewide. 

Just last week DeSantis removed Patricia Okker as  president at Florida New College, replacing her with former state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on an interim basis. Prior to that, the governor called on university and college leaders to reevaluate how much they are spending on diversity and inclusion programs.

In the midst of all that, Crump told reporters at the Capitol in downtown Tallahassee last week that he intends to file a suit over the governor’s rejection of the AP course. He would be filing the suit on behalf of three high school students who stood by his side at the Capitol.

Meanwhile, the Advanced Placement African American studies has been grabbing national headlines. Even when County Commissioner Bill Proctor referenced the rejected AP course as “trash” during a Jan. 24 commission meeting, national media found it newsworthy to report.

Later, Proctor sent a letter to DeSantis asking him to put together a 15-member panel of historians who could  “develop a holistic African American History curriculum for all curriculum levels, including AP classes.” He suggested that those historians could come from faculty at  the University of Florida, Florida State University and Florida A&M University.

Holmes, who is also president of the Tallahassee chapter of the National Action Network, took time during his meeting with reporters to state his displeasure with Proctor.

“Our history is not trash,” said Holmes, who is also publisher of the Capital Outlook. “No part of our wholesome, comprehensive history is trash nor is it inferior.”

The AP course is a college-level class for high school students. The course was drafted by the College Board, which said it didn’t make the latest change because of DeSantis’ outrage.

The topic of “Black queer studies” was one of the troubling entries in the original AP draft. That rejection was because it  required work authored by Roderick Ferguson. His research focuses on understanding diversity initiatives on college campuses – topics that are known to have sparked debate.

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

Holmes countered by saying that omission of any part the original AP course is diluting Black history.

“I think we are going down a dangerous road when we pick and chose or cherry-pick about which historian, scientist, philosopher, researcher, artist (and) cultural giants that we should study,” Holmes said. “The contributions are positive and help us think outside the box to bring us close together.”


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