When I first had a chance to read the College Board’s AP African American Studies syllabus, I predicted that the College Board was likely to beat a hasty retreat if its bottom line was jeopardized. I have not yet seen the revised edition, but the media is reporting that certain hot topics and prominent names were deleted to make the course palatable to Ron DeSantis and other conservative governors.

The New York Times reported:

After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies — stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives.

The College Board purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism. It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum.

And it added something new: “Black conservatism” is now offered as an idea for a research project.

This last addition was a direct concession to criticism from the conservative National Review, which assailed the AP course as Neo-marxist indoctrination that left out the voices of African American conservative writers and scholars.

The Times’ story continues:

But the study of contemporary topics — including Black Lives Matter, incarceration, queer life and the debate over reparations — is downgraded. The subjects are no longer part of the exam, and are simply offered on a list of options for a required research project.

And even that list, in a nod to local laws, “can be refined by local states and districts.”

The expunged writers and scholars include Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia, which touts her work as “foundational in critical race theory”; Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who has written about queer social movements; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author who has made the case for reparations for slavery. Gone, too, is bell hooks, the writer who shaped discussions about race, feminism and class.

After the curriculum was released, Professor Crenshaw said that even if her name and others had been taken out of the curriculum because secondary sources — theorists or analysts — were being eliminated in favor of facts and lived experience, the decision sent a troubling message. “I would have made a different choice,” she said. “Even the appearance of bowing to political pressure in the context of new knowledge and ideas is something that should not be done.”

But she said she was also disappointed because she had believed the course would capitalize on a hunger of young students to learn “ways of thinking about things like police brutality, mass incarceration and continuing inequalities.”

Instead, she said, “the very same set of circumstances that presented the need for the course also created the backlash against the content that people don’t like.”

David Blight, a professor of American history at Yale University, said Wednesday that he had written an endorsement of the new curriculum, at the College Board’s request, and that he believed it had much to offer not just about history but also about Black poetry, art and the origins of the blues, jazz and hip-hop. But he withdrew his endorsement on Wednesday, after learning that some sections had been cut.

“I withdrew it because I want to know when and how they made these decisions to excise these people, because that’s also an attack on their academic freedom,” Dr. Blight said.

PEN America, a free speech organization, echoed that concern. While the College Board had said the changes were not political, the board “risked sending the message that political threats against the teaching of particular types of content can succeed in silencing that content,” said Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America…

Dr. Gates, who was a consultant to the curriculum, said he was “sorry that the College Board’s policy is not to require secondary sources in its curricula.” He teaches Harvard’s introduction to African American studies, “and academic subjects such as ‘Intersectionality’ and critical race theory, the 1619 Project, reparations for slavery, Black homophobia and antisemitism are fair game, of course, for such a class,” he said in an email. The 1619 Project is an initiative by The New York Times.

The College Board insists it made its changes in December before DeSantis denounced the syllabus.

But the conservative attack on the syllabus began last September, when Stanley Kurtz received a leaked copy and wrote a scathing critique in The National Review called “Neo-Marxing the College Board with AP African American Studies.”

He wrote in September:

A new and sweeping effort to infuse leftist radicalism into America’s K–12 curriculum has begun. The College Board — the group that runs the SAT test and the Advanced Placement (AP) program — is pilot-testing an AP African American Studies course. While the College Board has withheld the course’s curriculum framework from the public, I have obtained a copy.

Although K–12 teachers and academic consultants working with the College Board have publicly denied that AP African American Studies (APAAS) either pushes an ideological agenda or teaches critical race theory, those denials are false. APAAS clearly proselytizes for a socialist transformation of the United States, although its socialism is heavily inflected by attention to race and ethnicity. Even if there were no laws barring such content, states and local school districts would have every right to block APAAS as antithetical to their educational goals. In any case, APAAS’s course content does run afoul of the new state laws barring CRT. To approve APAAS would be to gut those laws.

Kurtz followed with additional articles in The National Review lambasting the course as radical leftist indoctrination that violated state laws prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory. He applauded DeSantis’s attack on the course.

Although the College Board insisted that it’s revisions had nothing to do with the conservative pushback and was completely nonpolitical, Kurtz laughed:

Here’s the reality. The College Board is in a panic. Its repeated attempts to keep the APAAS curriculum secret have failed. That curriculum has now been widely published, and the teacher’s guide has been exposed here at NRO as well. My sources tell me that at least one other red state is seriously considering pulling out of the course. More red states are likely doing the same. The College Board knows that if it doesn’t stop the bleeding, the red states will be lost.

The College Board knew it had a problem months before DeSantis condemned the course. Could it take the risk of offering a course that would be rejected by red states that had already banned “critical race theory?”

The Times pointed out:

Acceptance for the new curriculum is important to the College Board, a nonprofit, because A.P. courses are a major source of revenue. The board took in more than $1 billion in program service revenue in 2019, of which more than $490 million came from “AP and Instruction,” according to its tax-exempt filing.

The College Board is a nonprofit but it pays hefty salaries. According ito Forbes, its Chief Executive Officer David Coleman (the architect of the Common Core standards) was paid $1.8 million in salary in 2018 (the last year that figures were available), and its president received more than $1 million. The company holds over $1 billion in assets.

Could they risk publishing a course that might be rejected by every red state? Maybe. But would they? Clearly, it was decided that it was easier to drop the controversial names and topics than to offend powerful conservative figures who might hurt their revenues.