Murphy Signs Bill Strengthening Amistad Commission

A new law signed Thursday by Gov. Phil Murphy will strengthen the state’s mandate that African American history be infused into New Jersey school curricula throughout the year.

Legislation approved in 2002 created the Amistad Commission — named for the ship famously commandeered by African slaves — to study, develop and promote programming that would incorporate African American history into the public education system year-round. But 17 years later, many schools have not fully implemented a program.

During the 2019 teachers convention in Atlantic City, the New Jersey Department of Education announced plans to work with the New Jersey Education Association to better implement the Amistad Curriculum across the state.

This new bill, sponsored by Sens. Teresa Ruiz, Shirley Turner and Troy Singleton and Assemblypersons Annette Quijano, Angela McKnight and Britnee Timberlake, changes the current law to distinguish the Amistad Commission from the Department of Education and requires funding for the commission to be in a separate line item of the state’s budget.

The bill also includes language recognizing the omission or misrepresentation of African American history in public schools since the founding of the nation, and to mandate that boards of education require curriculums to include instruction infused through all courses.

The NJEA announced support for the new legislation on its website.

“NJEA is committed to promoting racial and social justice in our schools and our state. We continue to support and work with the Amistad Commission to ensure that the history of slavery and the contributions of African Americans to our country are taught in every public school in New Jersey. We support this legislation to transition the Amistad Commission into the Department of Education, and urge the legislature to ensure the Commission maintains its independence through this transition and in the future,” reads a statement from the union.

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