School to pilot AP African American Studies course next year

New Trier one of only 200 schools nationwide selected for pilot



Students will learn about figures like Harriet Tubman, who was enslaved before leading herself and others through the Underground Railroad

Next year, New Trier High School will be one of 200 schools throughout America piloting Advanced Placement African American Studies, a history course that will be offered to juniors and seniors. 

I am really excited about this opportunity to bring a new lens to our AP curriculum.

— Micheal Christensen

AP African American Studies has been in development for over a decade. Its curriculum, “reaches into a variety of fields – literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science – to explore the vital contributions and experience of African Americans,” according to College Board. In doing so, the AP curriculum moves away from its pattern of only offering history courses that revolve around European and American history. 

Over 300 teachers and administrators contributed to the curriculum which contains four units: Origins of the African Diaspora,  Freedom, Enslavement and Resistance, the Practice of Freedom, and Movements and Debates. Beginning with the kingdoms and empires of Africa and concluding with contemporary African American movements, the course offers the full scope of the African American experience. 

Michael Christensen, the social studies department chair, is looking forward to offering the course to students as it brings a new curriculum to the AP courses which New Trier hasn’t had before.

The class will also offer students the chance to explore the curriculum in ways not offered in other AP courses. According to Christensen, those who take the course will be able to complete multiple research-based projects to delve deeper into a topic of their choosing, an opportunity unique to AP African American Studies. 

The AP exam will also look a bit different than typical AP history courses. 

“Students who enroll in the course for next school year will actually get to take a digital AP exam,” said Chimille Tillery, New Trier’s director of curriculum and instruction. 

The scoring for the exam will be identical to other courses, however.

Over 200 universities throughout the country have committed to offering college credit for students who receive qualifying scores on the AP exam. Although it will only be a pilot course, students taking it next year will still receive credit.

Despite almost universal approval of the course and its contents, Florida governor Ron DeSantis blocked the College Board from moving forward with the course in his state, citing a “lack of educational value.” Such a decision was a part of the governor’s “Stop W.O.K.E” campaign, which places severe restrictions upon how race can be taught in Florida classrooms. 

Christensen, however, views the controversy as nonexistent: “Teachers and educators should be making decisions about curriculum.”

Overall, Christensen is excited to bring a new and unique course to the table of New Trier’s AP curriculum.

“I am really excited about this opportunity to bring a new lens to our AP curriculum. This focus allows for more depth and breadth of an experience that we haven’t had in AP.”