Even as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis tries to erase and control the narrative of Black, brown, and LGBTQ folks, someone comes in to undermine his efforts. This time it’s a Chicago-based publishing house that just couldn’t sit by and watch the rise of DeSantis’ authoritarian regime.
The College Board, which runs Advanced Placement (AP) courses, released its new and freshly scrubbed AP African American Studies (APAAS) curriculum last week—sans Black authors and scholars connected to critical race theory (CRT), Black feminism, and the historical existence of the Black Lives Matter movement. So Haymarket Books decided to put Florida in its crosshairs.
“The racist governor of Florida continues to escalate his attacks on the freedom to learn and teach history,” the publisher wrote in a recent press release. “We at Haymarket stand in solidarity with all those in Florida and across the country who are organizing to resist. We know that books can be dangerous to those in power, especially when they are in the hands of folks who are organizing to fight for liberation. That’s why we publish them. That's why they’re trying to ban them.”
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Haymarket Books then offered three e-books free for anyone to download. The titles include: From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation by Keeanga Yamahtta, which explores why the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary; Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, edited by Jesse Hagopian and Denisha Jones, which chronicles how the Black Lives Matter movement addresses issues of systemic racism; and 1919 by Eve L. Ewing, a collection of poems depicting the Chicago race riots of 1919.
“Black people have always figured out ways to teach our history in spaces beneath, beyond, and betwixt the machinations of people like Ron DeSantis. The only thing he ever got right in his life was understanding how insurgent our stories really are, how threatening to the status quo of a nation built on theft,” Ewing wrote.
On Jan. 12, DeSantis wrote a rejection letter to the state College Board nixing the AP course, claiming it is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
The College Board launched the APAAS pilot of the course in 60 U.S. schools, but conservatives pounced on it, alleging the course promotes critical race theory (CRT)—a legal concept that has never been taught as a class anywhere except in law schools. CRT has been interpreted as “anything about Black people” by conservatives and now serves as a boogeyman to pass anti-Black education legislation.
So, the College Board went back to the drawing board and redesigned the course, despite the fact that scholars, such as Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr., gave the course their full endorsement.
David Coleman, who heads the College Board, told The New York Times that the changes in curriculum were made for educational—not political—reasons.
“At the College Board, we can’t look to statements of political leaders,” he claimed, adding that the changes came from “the input of professors” and “longstanding A.P. principles.”
DeSantis’ press secretary, Bryan Griffin, gave all the credit to the Florida governor, tweeting, “Thanks to @GovRonDeSantis’ principled stand for education over identity politics, the College Board will be revising the course for the entire nation.”
Haymarket is additionally offering Floridians “radical books for free to young people.”
The Hill reports that books available to Florida residents would be those published by Haymarket Books, and topics include anything from politics to abolition and Black Lives Matter, and coverage of the school-to-prison pipeline.