Governor Ron DeSantis and his Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. denounced the new AP African American Studies course in January. They listed specific objections to the syllabus. When the College Board released its final draft on February 1, everything that Florida opposed had been deleted.

The College Board insisted that it did not bow to political pressure because the revisions were made before Florida officials denounced the original.

The New York Times reported that the College Board and Florida officials were in frequent contact between September and February 1. The first attack on the AP course was written by Stanley Kurtz and published in the National Review on September 12. Kurtz warned that the AP course was “NeoMarxist” and takes “leftist indoctrination to a whole new level.”

About the same time, the College Board and Florida officials began negotiations.

The Times said today:

While the College Board was developing its first Advanced Placement course in African American studies, the group was in repeated contact with the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, often discussing course concepts that the state said it found objectionable, a newly released letter shows.

When the final course guidelines were released last week, the College Board had removed or significantly reduced the presence of many of those concepts — like intersectionality, mass incarceration, reparations and the Black Lives Matter movement — though it said that political pressure played no role in the changes.

The specifics about the discussions, over the course of a year, were outlined in a Feb. 7 letter from the Florida Department of Education to the College Board.

The existence of the letter was first reported by The Daily Caller, aconservative news site. A copy of the letter was posted on Scribd. Its authenticity was verified by a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, which released a copy early Thursday.

The College Board responded to the letter with one of its own, released on Thursday, saying that Florida’s concerns had not influenced any revisions to the course, which had been shaped instead by feedback from educators.

“We provide states and departments of Education across the country with the information they request for inclusion of courses within their systems,” the letter said, adding, “We need to clarify that no topics were removed because they lacked educational value. We believe all the topics listed in your letter have substantial educational value.”

The discussions between the College Board and the state took place as right-wing activists across the country were increasingly taking aim at school lessons that emphasize race and racism in America. Governor DeSantis, who has presidential ambitions, has cast himself as the voice of parents who are fed up with what he has called “woke indoctrination” from progressive educators.

The back and forth between Florida and the College Board is sure to add to the controversy over the Advanced Placement curriculum, which has prompted a debate among academics in the fields of Black studies, U.S. history and beyond. It has also cast suspicion on the College Board, long criticized for producing exams that seemed to favor white and affluent students.

Supporters of the new A.P. course — which can yield college credit for high school students who do well in it — say it encourages the study of Black history and culture, which have often had only a limited place in high schools. They see another advantage as well, saying that the class will attract Black and Hispanic students, who have not enrolled in A.P. classes as frequently as white students, enriching their study skills and potentially enabling them to amass college credit.

The Florida letter suggests discrepancies with the College Board’s account of events. Florida publicly announced that it had rejected the A.P. course in January, a few weeks before the College Board released its final guidelines — too little time, the board said, to make any politically motivated revisions. But according to the letter, the state informed the College Board months before, in September 2022, that it would not add the African American Studies class to the state’s course directory without revisions.

The Florida letter also outlines a key Nov. 16 meeting to air differences between the state and the College Board over the course. In the meeting, the state claimed that the A.P. African American Studies course violated regulations requiring that “instruction on required topics must be factual and objective and may not suppress or distort significant historical events.”

According to the state, the College Board acknowledged that the course would undergo revisions, while pushing back against the state’s request to remove concepts like “systemic marginalization” and “intersectionality,” which the College Board saw as integral to the class.

Nevertheless, by the time the course’s final framework was released on Feb. 1, those terms had largely been removed, except that intersectionality was listed as an optional subject for the course’s required final project, in which students can choose their area of focus.

In its response to the Florida letter, the College Board said, “We are confident in the historical accuracy of every topic included in the pilot framework, as well as those now in the official framework.” The board has also said that students and teachers could still engage with ideas like intersectionality through optional lessons or projects and through A.P. Classroom, a free website that will serve as a repository for important texts for the class.

Even so, many scholars have noted the omission of terms that, according to the College Board’s own research documents, are considered central to African American Studies as it is taught on college campuses.

Intersectionality, for example, is an influential theory first laid out by the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. It posits that race, class, gender, sexuality and other forms of identity intersect in ways that shape individuals’ experience of the world.

Professor Crenshaw’s work is important to several disciplines, including African American studies, gender studies and legal studies. She is also closely associated with critical race theory, a concept that has become a lightning rod among conservative curriculum activists, who object to schools emphasizing the concepts of racism or white privilege.

Ron DeSantis threw his weight around, and the College Board capitulated. He is now the official arbiter of what history may be taught to advanced students in American high schools.