Making History

Mililani Takes Part in AP African American Studies Pilot Course

Randen Tadaki

In the 2023-2024 school year, the brand-new course Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies will make its debut at Mililani High School. MHS already offers twenty-six AP courses across a diverse group of academic fields, including the typical four core subjects of English, Math, Science and Social Studies as well as more specialized fields like Music Theory, Computer Science and Environmental Science. In 2022, the College Board began offering the course AP African American Studies for the 2022 – 2023 school year. Mililani High School took the opportunity to sign on as one of the 200+ schools participating in the second pilot year of the program.

“AP African-American Studies is an interdisciplinary course, which means even though it is based in history, there are lots of other academic disciplines that the student will encounter like geography, sociology, music, art [and literature,]” said Social Studies teacher Kimberly Lauzon. “It is an overview of African-American his

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was
an early American sociologist who is
regarded as the most important black
civil rights activist of the early 20th
century (Photo courtesy of The Library of

tory but also experiences, achievements and challenges and I would tell them [prospective students] that it is much more in depth than what they would learn in an average U.S. or World History course.” 

Lauzon, who already teaches AP World History, Modern Hawaiian History and Participation in Democracy, will be teaching the AP African American Studies course in August. In July, she will attend the AP Summer Institute training for the pilot course at Howard University in Washington D.C. Howard University, a HBCU (Historically Black College or University,) was founded in 1867 with the original mission of teaching black preachers. Since then it has become a nationally top ranked university in multiple fields, including Biology, Political Science, Communications and Psychology. 

“Upon going to AP Night I was and am really excited, I think it’s really nice that our school with such a little African-American population is offering it to [a] diverse range of students,” said junior Qamara Barnett. 

Barnett is one of the students enrolled in the course for the 2023-2024 school year. Mililani High School, which is the only public school from Hawaii participating in the pilot program, will have a direct influence on the future implementation of the course. According to the College Board, the administrator for all AP courses and tests, students and teachers feedback will have an effect on College Board’s decisions on the final curriculum and exam in the coming years. The AP African American Studies’ curriculum was developed by multiple college faculty and staff from across the country.

“The curriculum actually begins in Africa before European contact, which is really interesting because most students don’t have exposure to that curriculum unless they were in AP World, which I’m fortunate enough to have taught that before but this goes much more in depth. The course begins in Africa and looks at the African diaspora and studies early African empires, city states, kingdoms, traditions and practices and that is really exciting,” said Lauzon. 

Quarter one of the course begins with the African diaspora before European contact during the 1500s. Quarter two starts to explore the Atlantic slave trade and its affect on the American colonies through the following centuries, leading into quarter three’s content on the Civil War, the Reconstruction Period, the Harlem Renaissance and the Great Migration. The year ends with contemporary discussion on the Civil Rights Movement and more recent issues people alive today may have experienced firsthand. Controversy over this period of the course and its content required for the initial exam in 2024 has appeared in various states. Schools may choose to omit the controversial material, but the resources will remain available online to students who wish to learn the content anyways.

The class focuses on aspects other than the typical history of the African-American experience. Tying in literature, music and art, the course analyzes African-American pieces of culture. Authors discussed include abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Phillis Wheatley, who is widely considered the first published African-American author of poetry; Harriet Jacobs, author of the now-American classic, “Life of a Slave Girl”; W.E.B. DuBois, the first African-American to receive a PhD from Harvard University; and leader of the Harlem Renaissance Langston Hughes, a musician and poet. African art such as masks and carvings are explored throughout the centuries, and Jazz music and hip-hop are also featured topics.

In preparation for the new school year, Lauzon will hold a pre-summer meeting at the end of the school year for enrolled students, who should check their emails for more information. For more information on the course or on enrolling next year, see Lauzon in P15 during non-instructional time or visit the official CollegeBoard page at https://apcentral.collegeboard.or g/about-ap/how-ap-develops-courses-and-exams/pilot-ap-african-american-studies.