‘We will litigate like hell:’ NAACP denounces Florida’s rejection of African American Studies course

Current course content is ‘contrary to Florida law,’ state says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – In solemn rage, NAACP officials, state senators and others involved in civil rights activism gathered for a news conference Saturday morning at a resort in Orange County to discuss Florida’s recent rejection of an Advanced Placement pilot course on African American Studies.

“We have a governor who has made it his mission to create criminals, to create criminals out of people who want to read a book, people who want to provide a book, people who want to lift up their part of this American story because he says that might disturb someone and make them uncomfortable,” NAACP Chairman of the Board Leon W. Russell said, opening the conference after holding a moment of silence for Tyre Nichols. “...We will stand against this silly proposal to deny an AP (African) American Studies course. We will agitate, we will educate, we will legislate to the extent that we can, but we will litigate like hell.”

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The event at Rosen Centre was held to denounce the state’s “flippant decision to reject (the) AP course on African American Studies and (the) Florida DOE’s reprehensive whitesplaining of Black history and culture,” the organization said in a statement.

That outrage follows the publication of a Jan. 12 transmittal letter from the Florida Department of Education to the College Board informing the nonprofit that the content of its course “is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” With the rejection, too, was a suggestion that FDOE would reconsider “should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content.”

Dr. Adora Obi Nweze, NAACP Florida State Conference president and National Board member, spoke next.

“It is particularly troubling, but not surprising, that Gov. DeSantis continues seemingly undeterred to his quest to silence African American voices. (At) the NAACP and Florida State Conference, we want you to know that — and particularly to Gov. Ron DeSantis — that you will not silence our voices,” she said. “We call upon the governor and the Florida Department of Education to approve the Advanced Placement African American history class. Students, no matter what their race may be, should be able to learn about African American history. Gov. DeSantis claims that the educators who lead African American history have an agenda. We ask the governor this question: When does the truth become an agenda?”

As the transmittal letter made its rounds, the state has since outlined its concerns with the course that, while only summarized, touched on topics of Intersectionality and Activism, Black Queer Studies, Movements for Black Lives, Black Study and Black Struggle in the 21st Century, Black Feminist Literary Thought and The Reparations Movement:

The conference’s speakers Saturday also included President of the NAACP Florida Youth and College Division Colin Mitchell; Chief of Field Roger Jackson with the NAACP National Office; Faith in Action Florida Democracy Director Dr. LaVon Bracy; state Senators Geraldine Thompson and Rosalind Osgood; and former state Senator Anthony Hill.

Mitchell energized the crowd, leading chants of “If we fight, we win” as he ridiculed and directly challenged the governor’s self-labeled “anti-woke” stance.

The world has leaders, Mitchell prefaced, who empower the people, protect rights and understand that power is shared, not controlled.

“However, in this same world, there are leaders that spew hatred, lies and are inspired by the worst parts of the past, like separate but equal. Black Codes. Jim Crow. Whites only. Blacks only. Segregation. ‘You don’t belong here.’ ‘Go back where you came from.’ ‘Here’s a flight to Martha’s Vineyard.’ And they enjoy the scare tactic,” Mitchell said. “These are leaders who invented wicked ideas to stop progress. They do not want you to know the history of how to overcome tyrants because they implement policies to restrict the next generation from learning about it. Ron DeSantis is the reborn, reincarnated, reinvented George Wallace Jim Crow Willie Lynch of our time.”

Sen. Thompson was present at an earlier news conference Wednesday during which three high school students — joined by Attorney Ben Crump — threatened to launch a lawsuit against Florida if the course was not allowed in state classrooms.

“There are many gaps in American history regarding the African American population,” said Victoria McQueen, a junior at Leon High School in Tallahassee. “The implementation of an AP African American history class will fill in those gaps.”

Dr. Robert Patterson, an African American Studies professor at Georgetown University and co-chair of the course’s development committee, also spoke Wednesday.

“For me, it boils down to anti-black racism and white supremacy,” Patterson said. “It’s a bit annoying that people who are not experts in the field have decided — and think they can decide — what has value, what has integrity.”

The College Board said changes for the AP African American Studies framework were already planned before Florida rejected the pilot program and will be unveiled Feb. 1.

Watch the first hour of the NAACP’s news conference again in the media player below:

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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.