White Station pilots AP African American Studies course



Rachel Davis-Collins helps a student as he completes work on his computer. He uses his time wisely to work on material for the class and stay up to date.

Romero Laster (12) and Tyus Davis (12) work diligently as they finish reading a primary source together. The text is a part of their second unit titled “African Americans in Indigenous Territory.” (MILAGROS PEREZ//THE SCROLL)

While White Station offers dozens of Advanced Placement (AP) classes for its students, it has long been one of the schools selected to introduce pilot AP classes such as AP Seminar and AP Research. This year, the Shelby County School Board of Education signed an agreement with the College Board to launch AP African American Studies through White Station, one of only 60 schools selected nationwide to do this. Taught by Rachel Davis-Collins, this class was quickly selected by various students who yearned to learn of an often underrepresented part of American history.  

“It’s interesting because it’s African American Studies, and so it’s interdisciplinary … there [are] poems [and] artwork,” Collins said. “When we come back from fall break … we’re doing a whole topic on gospel music and its influence. So, just the fact that it’s a new way to look at similar topics and give a different interpretation [of them].”

Collins has spent about 10 years teaching non-AP African American History. After hearing about a potential AP class based on African American Studies, her interest was piqued. For students, it was gaining new history knowledge and being a part of something greater that persuaded them to take the class.

“I always wanted to know more about … the history behind African American culture and how Africa itself had influence on the culture in America,” Tesnime Abdullahi (12) said. “I just wanted to hear about different perspectives, and you know, get to learn a bit about each culture.” 

African American history is often a hidden part of American history that is rarely discussed, but this class will hopefully allow for more awareness to be brought up about it. It offers new styles of teaching race and history. 

 “Whenever we speak about African American culture, it’s always … the bare surface of slavery … and we don’t really get to dive in deep about how that stuff affected African Americans,” Abdullahi said. “Having this course dedicated solely to African American Studies, will really bring new information and better understanding to everyone.” 

Because the school prides itself on its very diverse population in terms of people and cultures, it makes this course even more significant. Along with having a diverse community, it is the variety in classes and clubs White Station has to offer that makes it so special.

“We have a very diverse school … so, I think the fact that we’re including classes that are just kinda like our demographic here at the school is very, very important,” Romero Laster (12) said. “[The class is] something that you don’t really see often, and I’m glad I can be a part of it.” 

Currently, the class is only offered for two periods; however, there are plans to expand it in the future due to the overwhelming demand by students.

“I’m looking forward to expanding the AP African American Studies at White Station, because I would love to do more than one class of this,” Collins said. “So, I’m looking forward to see[ing] how the community responds to doing additional classes.”  

While the class has only been taught for about three months, students claim it has already started to make an impact on students and the community altogether. 

“I feel very honored … I feel like I’m a part of something major, something that will change history,” Abdullahi said.