St. Anthony’s students enrolled in the African American literature class with staff on...

St. Anthony’s students enrolled in the African American literature class with staff on Thursday. From left, Mira Roman; Jahanara Razack; Sydney Walters and Kyra Colquhoun; back, curriculum director Nick Vasiliades; Michael Zanni, Brenden Howard; instructor Olivier St. Aude and Joseph Mayan. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington will offer a college-level course in African American Studies in the fall, using principles of the Catholic Church that focus on dignity, school officials said.

The Advancement Placement course will be the second class added to the school’s curriculum in recent years that specifically focuses on the Black experience in America. The school established an African American literature class last year in response to students' requests after George Floyd, who was Black, was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020. The students wanted a safe place to talk about race relations in America, officials said. A bystander's video that captured Floyd’s cries of “I can’t breathe” and his death touched off protests worldwide and forced a national reckoning with police brutality and racism. Four police officers were convicted and sentenced on various charges related to Floyd's murder.

The literature class, with 22 students enrolled this year, prompted the private school to implement the African American Studies course, said director of curriculum and instruction Nick Vasiliades. The class reads and analyzes works by Black authors and discusses current events. Currently, students are studying the origins of stereotypes and how they are presented in the media, the school said.

“Given the success of that class, and the community that we built as a result of that project, we thought that it would be really, really great if we could prepare another class that focuses more on the historical/sociological side of things,” said Vasiliades, who will be teaching the AP class. The class, which can accommodate 30 students, will be offered as an elective for seniors to fulfill their social studies requirement, Vasiliades said. 

AP African American Studies has been met with some controversy with critics across the country saying it lacks educational value.

The College Board, the Manhattan-based nonprofit that creates the curriculum for Advanced Placement classes and sponsors the SAT, said the course officially launches in the fall after a pilot program in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years. 

Seven school districts and two private/charter schools on Long Island piloted the course for this school year, said Sara Sympson, director of communications for the College Board.

The College Board said the AP class is an interdisciplinary course that draws from a variety of fields — history, literature, arts, geography and science — to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans, from ancient African societies to the present.

At St. Anthony’s, the class will be taught using College Board criteria but through the lens of the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching: dignity of the human person; options for the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; call to family, community and participation; care for God’s creation; and rights and responsibilities, Vasiliades said.

The principles can be applied to help identify issues and find solutions in the Black experience, he said. The course, he said, also can be viewed as a cultural or sociology class. 

“It's about getting the kids to be critical thinkers to love one another radically,” he said.

Julie Byrne, chair of the Department of Religion at Hofstra University, said the African American story is a learning experience for every American, and Catholic social teaching also has a lot to say about America's national values, so pairing the two should be quite effective.

"It could lift up all the ways in which African Americans and Catholic Americans, including Black Catholics, have consistently called the wider U.S. to live up to its ideals of equality and freedom for all," she wrote in an email. 

Zebulon Miletsky, associate professor of Africana Studies at Stony Brook University, said Catholic social teaching is "consistent with a lot of the belief systems that drove the civil rights movement which had a home in the Black church."

"So it will be one way to align and connect their beliefs to the history that they will be learning about," Miletsky said.

The school on Wolf Hill Road serves 2,419 students in grades 9 through 12. Of those, 4.3% are Black, about 4% are multiracial, 10.6% are Asian, 18% are Hispanic/Latino, and 62.6% are white. There are approximately 250 international students from 19 countries including China, Vietnam, South Korea, Italy, Spain and Brazil, the school said.

Brother David Migliorino, principal of the school, said the course will expose students to the breadth of the culture of Black people. 

“This is another opportunity to learn about great men and women of color who have done wonderful things for us," he said. "It’s a no brainer.” 

Monte Chandler, a St. Anthony's alumnus, said he advocated school officials to offer the AP African American Studies course, noting the school offers AP courses in European history and U.S. history.

“This will arm our students with the necessary facts about the history of Africans in this country and demonstrate the full humanity of African people who were kidnapped and enslaved,” Chandler, of Valley Stream, who graduated in 1989, said. “It shows they recognize the value of this kind of course.”

Wheatley Heights senior Sydney Walter, 17, who is enrolled in the Black literature course, said she appreciates that the school will help students have a deeper understanding of Black history through the AP offering.

“I hope next year’s students will have a perspective change and get to know more about the culture and history," she said, "something they wouldn't get if they didn’t get a chance to take the class.”

St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington will offer a college-level course in African American Studies in the fall, using principles of the Catholic Church that focus on dignity, school officials said.

The Advancement Placement course will be the second class added to the school’s curriculum in recent years that specifically focuses on the Black experience in America. The school established an African American literature class last year in response to students' requests after George Floyd, who was Black, was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020. The students wanted a safe place to talk about race relations in America, officials said. A bystander's video that captured Floyd’s cries of “I can’t breathe” and his death touched off protests worldwide and forced a national reckoning with police brutality and racism. Four police officers were convicted and sentenced on various charges related to Floyd's murder.

The literature class, with 22 students enrolled this year, prompted the private school to implement the African American Studies course, said director of curriculum and instruction Nick Vasiliades. The class reads and analyzes works by Black authors and discusses current events. Currently, students are studying the origins of stereotypes and how they are presented in the media, the school said.

“Given the success of that class, and the community that we built as a result of that project, we thought that it would be really, really great if we could prepare another class that focuses more on the historical/sociological side of things,” said Vasiliades, who will be teaching the AP class. The class, which can accommodate 30 students, will be offered as an elective for seniors to fulfill their social studies requirement, Vasiliades said. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington will offer an Advanced Placement class in African American Studies in the fall.
  • The AP class was piloted across the country in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. 
  • The class draws from a variety of fields to explore the contributions and experiences of African Americans.

AP African American Studies has been met with some controversy with critics across the country saying it lacks educational value.

The College Board, the Manhattan-based nonprofit that creates the curriculum for Advanced Placement classes and sponsors the SAT, said the course officially launches in the fall after a pilot program in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years. 

Seven school districts and two private/charter schools on Long Island piloted the course for this school year, said Sara Sympson, director of communications for the College Board.

The College Board said the AP class is an interdisciplinary course that draws from a variety of fields — history, literature, arts, geography and science — to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans, from ancient African societies to the present.

At St. Anthony’s, the class will be taught using College Board criteria but through the lens of the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching: dignity of the human person; options for the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; call to family, community and participation; care for God’s creation; and rights and responsibilities, Vasiliades said.

The principles can be applied to help identify issues and find solutions in the Black experience, he said. The course, he said, also can be viewed as a cultural or sociology class. 

“It's about getting the kids to be critical thinkers to love one another radically,” he said.

Julie Byrne, chair of the Department of Religion at Hofstra University, said the African American story is a learning experience for every American, and Catholic social teaching also has a lot to say about America's national values, so pairing the two should be quite effective.

"It could lift up all the ways in which African Americans and Catholic Americans, including Black Catholics, have consistently called the wider U.S. to live up to its ideals of equality and freedom for all," she wrote in an email. 

Zebulon Miletsky, associate professor of Africana Studies at Stony Brook University, said Catholic social teaching is "consistent with a lot of the belief systems that drove the civil rights movement which had a home in the Black church."

"So it will be one way to align and connect their beliefs to the history that they will be learning about," Miletsky said.

The school on Wolf Hill Road serves 2,419 students in grades 9 through 12. Of those, 4.3% are Black, about 4% are multiracial, 10.6% are Asian, 18% are Hispanic/Latino, and 62.6% are white. There are approximately 250 international students from 19 countries including China, Vietnam, South Korea, Italy, Spain and Brazil, the school said.

Brother David Migliorino, principal of the school, said the course will expose students to the breadth of the culture of Black people. 

“This is another opportunity to learn about great men and women of color who have done wonderful things for us," he said. "It’s a no brainer.” 

Monte Chandler, a St. Anthony's alumnus, said he advocated school officials to offer the AP African American Studies course, noting the school offers AP courses in European history and U.S. history.

“This will arm our students with the necessary facts about the history of Africans in this country and demonstrate the full humanity of African people who were kidnapped and enslaved,” Chandler, of Valley Stream, who graduated in 1989, said. “It shows they recognize the value of this kind of course.”

Wheatley Heights senior Sydney Walter, 17, who is enrolled in the Black literature course, said she appreciates that the school will help students have a deeper understanding of Black history through the AP offering.

“I hope next year’s students will have a perspective change and get to know more about the culture and history," she said, "something they wouldn't get if they didn’t get a chance to take the class.”

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From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book. Credit: Newsday Staff

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