New AP African American Studies Course is Set to Soar at the Nest


Skyline will be one of the two hundred schools nationwide to implement the new AP African American Studies course for the 2023-2024 school year. The class will cover around 80 topics surrounding the African Diaspora, from ancient African kingdoms to the Civil Rights Movement to the achievements of Black Americans in science, music and art.

Skyline’s IB Coordinator and long-time IB/AP English teacher Jill Thackeray will teach the course. Hearing about it in December from a College Board-sponsored Educator Appreciation Dinner, she was excited about the idea. “My minor was in African American studies so I thought it would be perfect,” she explains. Convincing Granite School District to take on the class, however, was more difficult, as the deadline to request new courses had passed the month prior. “I needed to talk to some people…I felt this was a marginalized case and that, of course, isn’t fair.” Thackeray has been teaching at Skyline for over 20 years, but she has never taught history. The format will be challenging to navigate, needing an entirely new curriculum. “The history department is excited…Watts [a long-time Skyline AP/IB History Teacher] offered me his African Civilizations textbook. It is just so nice to see how much they care about this new addition, just as much as I do,” she states. There has been national and local backlash with the new addition,  and Thackeray has seen it both ways. “It doesn’t surprise me given where it is taking place, but that’s why it’s important to not back down. To not let those loud, isolated voices ruin the full picture.” The full picture is already visible at Skyline as there have been 30 Eagles, ranging from all grades, who have signed up for the course during spring course registration, and more are estimated in the fall. “I know that there are interested people. We are going to cater to electives as much as we can,” Thackeray says.

Skyline isn’t only breaking historical bounds with this course, but also with the school’s first Black Student Union founded by Junior Eagle, Valencia McCarthy this year. “They [BSU members] are pretty excited about it. I know there would be more historical perspectives of African people, not just one side or the other,” the BSU founder says. Having lived in a bubble-like atmosphere her whole life, McCarthy admittedly is a bit surprised by the timing. “It is now more in-depth. There is more than just slavery that will be discussed,” she states. “I know there are courses already like this in other parts of the country, but especially living here it’s not seen at all. It breaks the notion of limitation to sharing history, which is great to see,” McCarthy says with a smile. The Junior Eagle pushes the perspective that black people and black history are more than just slavery and Martin Luther King. “There is more than just hardship. We, as a people, are just full of joy and laughter. We aren’t just victims, but fighters and pioneers. The mainstream high school history class experience isn’t like that,” McCarthy says. “Things I grew up slowly adapting to and just accepting are slowly changing, and that’s awesome especially for younger ages, like my siblings.” 

This world of just one look to history is slowly changing, adapting for the new generation. We have teachers like Jill Thackeray and bold students like Valencia McCarthy to thank for their continued resilience in making a difference.