The College Board has updated an Advanced Placement (A.P.) African American Studies course amid criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who, with the state board of education, banned it in state schools saying it violates a law he championed.

Rutgers professor Leslie Kay Jones recently found herself at the center of the controversy. Although her connection to the A.P. curriculum is tangential – her scholarship and expertise in Black Lives Matter was referenced as a potential resource for teachers who were reviewing the early design of the course – she was singled out in an infographic outlining Florida’s reason for rejecting the course.

Jones, who teaches in the Department of Sociology in the School of Arts at Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick, talked to Rutgers Today about the decision and what it means for teaching Black history nationwide.

What are the ramifications of the decision to prohibit teaching the course in Florida schools and how does it affect students inside and outside of the state?

Not only is DeSantis testing out his legal standing for censoring African American studies in K-12 schools, but he is laying the groundwork to miscast African American scholars generally as unacademic, undemocratic and divisive sources of ideas about the social world. Floridians and people in other states following DeSantis’s model should be aware that African American studies is the test case for using propaganda against different academic fields to bar specific groups from participating in the public market of ideas. The goal is to define even activism generally as immoral behavior (see the objection to Robin D.G. Kelley in the Florida Department of Education infographic), even though the DeSantis administration is itself engaged in political activism.

What does this mean for the future of African American studies across all grade levels?

In many ways, DeSantis is using an old playbook. Censorship of African American studies is a tried-and-true political strategy for limiting Americans’ ability to name and challenge politics of disenfranchisement. Just as the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. has been reduced in most educational programs to the repetition of a single speech that is often taught piecemeal and misrepresented, DeSantis hopes to dictate the limits of acceptable ideas emerging from political activism like the civil rights movement. Reducing allowable citations in African American studies will also have the effect of undercutting the rigor of the discipline, making it increasingly possible to assert that African American studies has no educational merit. Ultimately, we are looking at an effort to render the greater population historically ignorant and susceptible to indoctrination with ideologies of racial inferiority.

What do you think are the reasons behind Florida’s rejection of the A.P. Course?

The purpose is to justify an increasing program of censorship targeted at the language and ideas we use to combat indoctrination into fascism. That is why the focus is on misrepresenting work that explains how social hierarchies work through the analysis of historical events.

What was your reaction to being singled out by the Florida Department of Education?

As a graduate of the Florida public education system, I was happy to know that my work is viewed as useful in teaching students about racial inequality. As a junior scholar, I was flattered to have my work named among great scholars like Robin D.G. Kelley and bell hooks. I was disappointed that the Florida Department of Education chose to cite an “About Me” section from one of my social media pages rather than engaging with my rigorous academic work, but I understand that the purpose of the infographic was precisely to suggest that students would not be engaged in rigorous work when taking the A.P. African American Studies course.