AP African American Studies

‘What about Black history bothers you?’ Allderdice students value AP African American Studies course criticized in other states

Allderdice High School students (left to right, above) Syd Kaplan, Quincy Peterson, Jamie Coles, Amaya Dorman (sitting), Lena Gay and Natalie Lund in the school library. Photo by Clare Sheedy/PublicSource.

High school senior Lena Gay learned about Black history mostly through her family, but there were still gaps in her knowledge. In school through 11th grade, her teachers had glossed over the subject and focused on well-known figures, such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

“I learned most of Black history from being Black and just from at home,” said Gay, who attends Allderdice High School, a part of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

This school year, she’s had something new to share with her mother when she comes home each day. She’s enrolled in a pilot AP African American Studies course, a rare offering for students anywhere. Allderdice is one of about 60 high schools nationwide that’s piloting the course — recently at the center of a curriculum debate — during this academic year. This week, PublicSource published an extensive interview with Gay and a group of other teens taking the course.

The national debate surrounding the course has left students in the Allderdice class feeling frustrated. They emphasized that students are choosing to learn Black history — instead of being “indoctrinated” — and that the course is helping to tell a fuller, more complex version of American history.

“I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in my whole high school experience in this pilot, with my class, because we’re just given the opportunity to speak on history that hasn’t been talked about,” senior Quincy Peterson said. Asked what he would say to critics of the course, he said: “I would pose the question: What about Black history bothers you?”

Kidsburgh readers can learn more about Peterson’s perspective and read the entire article right here. And click here for a free subscription to PublicSource.