Iconic Kentucky author scrubbed from pared-down AP African American Studies course

The nonprofit that dictates curriculum for Advanced Placement courses has unveiled a pared-down version of a course about African American history that cuts out works from famed Kentucky author and civil rights activist bell hooks.

Hooks, who published nationally recognized writings on race, class, feminism, art and other topics, is one of several Black authors who have been dropped from the AP African American Studies curriculum, according to the New York Times. The curriculum was released by the College Board after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly denounced the College Board’s original plans, though the Associated Press reported the board said revisions were "substantially complete" before the criticism.

Hooks, who was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, was a prominent leader of feminist literature. She published more than 30 books on topics ranging from race to gender to class, often exploring "perceptions of Black women and Black women writers." She died in 2021 from renal failure at her home in Berea, where she had worked as a distinguished professor in residence for several years.

bell hooks
bell hooks

In a statement outlining the changes to the AP African American Studies curriculum, the College Board describes them as an “overall reduction in the breadth of the course.” Additionally, a small number of additional topics were added to the course that were “not adequately represented in the pilot version," the board wrote. The New York Times reported one such topic is “Black conservatism,” offered as a possible research project.

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“No one is excluded from this course: the Black artists and inventors whose achievements have come to light; the Black women and men, including gay Americans, who played pivotal roles in the civil rights movement; and people of faith from all backgrounds who contributed to the antislavery and civil rights causes. Everyone is seen,” said David Coleman, CEO of the College Board.

Hooks is not the only Black author associated with critical topics who was cut from the course. Ta-Nehisi Coates, an author who has argued for reparations for slavery, was removed, according to the New York Times, along with works by Roderick Ferguson, a professor at Yale who’s written about LGBTQ issues, and Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a Columbia professor associated with critical race theory.

DeSantis, commonly cited as a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate, had said he would block AP African American Studies courses in his state because he believed they pushed a progressive political agenda by including topics such as critical race theory, the notion that racism precedes the individual and is embedded into American society.

Several Black community leaders and other political figures across the country have spoken out against DeSantis' decision.

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Contact reporter Rae Johnson at RNJohnson@gannett.com. Follow them on Twitter at @RaeJ_33.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: AP African American Studies, ripped by Ron DeSantis, cuts bell hooks