© 2023 WYPR
20th Anniversary Background
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Teachers in Baltimore City say African American Studies course is gaining popularity

Black Studies Student_Chicago 1973_credit John H. White_NatlArchives_556263_low_widecrop.png
A student in a Black Studies class in a Cook County, Chicago, public high school in 1973. There is a growing movement in the United States, led by conservative governors, lawmakers and educators, to ban or restrict the teaching of Black Studies programs in our public schools. Critics of the movement say it is driven by a white nationalist ideology that seeks to erase the troubling facts of America's racial history. (Photo credit John H. White/National Archives)

One Baltimore City educator says that her school district is bucking a trend in more conservative states, such as the fight in Florida, over whether to teach African American history in public schools.

As the country celebrates Black History Month, there is a renewed focus on how African American history is taught in schools. Recently, the College Board — a non profit overseeing Advanced Placement courses — omitted the study of contemporary authors and topics. Critics say the College Board caved to political pressure by announcing the decision days after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis decided Florida’s Department of Education would reject the AP course.

But in Maryland, where the state is mostly Democratic, educators say they are not worried about teaching the course. On WYPR’s “Midday” local teachers told host Tom Hall, they are seeing many students sign up for the class.

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute is one of 60 public schools participating in a nationwide pilot for Advanced Placement in African American Studies.

“I have a school system, I have students, I have parents that are supportive of this course and what I'm teaching,” said Patrice Frasier, social studies department chair at Polytechnic Institute. “But I've talked to teachers in other places where the political climate is different.”

Overall, Frasier said the AP course is opening doors for more students and teachers of color to participate in the Advanced Placement program, adding that she still has flexibility in teaching contemporary topics like Black Lives Matter, even though the AP exam won’t test for that material.

At Baltimore School for the Arts, students can take Black Literature as an elective.

Damian Ford, who teaches the course, said it is offered by popular demand.

“Our Black Student Union banded with a group of other students at different schools, back in 2020,” said Ford. “At the time there was not a curriculum, and so I just began crafting [one].”

Now, Ford worries about the future of the course. He says he wants it to have “staying power” and is working with students and the school’s administration to have the class offered in upcoming course catalogs.

Former high school teacher turned professor Marcus Anthony Hunter, also weighed in. The UCLA professor is hopeful African American studies offered to high school students can be a starting point.

“Take that class in whatever capacity it is offered and whatever content is offered,” said Hunter. “And that begins a longer interest and quest into studying the Black American experience.”

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
Related Content