New AP Elective African American Studies Expected for the Upcoming School Year


Violet Gude

Las Vegas Academy of the Arts (LVA) will be one of hundreds of highschools across the country welcoming College Board’s new AP African American history elective in the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. LVA social studies instructor Shea Dokken plans to use all resources necessary as an instructor of the course, even going beyond the textbooks, to find and educate on the excluded voices of history.

Violet Gude, Reporter

After much work done by College Board to bring new elective class AP African American Studies to high schools across the nation, Las Vegas Academy of the Arts (LVA) will be one of the hundreds of high schools offering the course in the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. The course has been an ongoing project for over a decade and will be College Board’s first new course offering since 2014.

In January, political debate on the course arose as Florida governor Ron DeSantis criticized the pilot version of the course’s curriculum. DeSantis made early claims that the course had inaccuracies, later criticizing certain topics included in the course. On January 12th, he blocked the course from being brought to Florida schools, writing a letter to the college board that said it “lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law.”

Controversy continued to rise recently as College Board’s official release of the course’s curriculum on February 1st had removed several of the same topics criticized by DeSantis and others. While some sources say there was direct contact with Florida officials, College Board claims that there was no negotiation between Florida or any other states on the course and that all revisions were made based on professional opinion in reviewing the course. Topics removed include concepts such as the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ studies, Reparations, and more. 

The pilot version of the course was tested at 60 high schools across the U.S. this past school year, and now, with the official curriculum recently released, the class will expand to hundreds of high schools in the upcoming school year, LVA included. As the course is introduced at LVA, it will be taught by Social Studies Instructor Shea Dokken. He shares his excitement for the course and what he has planned for it.

Dokken describes the course as an overview of concepts and ideas that specifically look at the voices, history, and experience of African Americans. He recommends the class to anyone interested and explains that it is a pretty accessible course as not much prior knowledge is needed.

He has already begun preparing and hopes there will be efficient resources provided by the College Board for the course, but if not, he says he is still excited to do the research and find those voices himself. He’s even setting up a time to collaborate with a friend teaching another African American Studies course at State University of New York (SUNY) Brockport. He plans to do all the necessary research, going beyond the textbooks to seek out some of the silenced voices of history. “The voices of marginalized people exist, they are out there, they are not in the textbooks, so you have to go and curate it,” Dokken said. 

Students taking the course this year will be the first to take the AP exam. According to the College Board over 200 universities have already agreed to recognize the course for credit, and this number is still working to expand. Those interested in this course can speak to Mr. Dokken or their counselor for more information.