New Jersey Department of Education

About Us

Our Commitment to NJ Educators

Student teaching and learning and the infusion of Africans and African Americans in the narrative of American and world history serve at the core of our mission to ensure that NJ public school students and teachers have the resources to assure that Africans and African Americans are embedded in the curriculum for social studies, world history, and a variety of other courses. We are committed to partnerships with all educational agencies in New Jersey to accomplish this important mission and to raise awareness about the Amistad Commission.

Our Goals

The Amistad Commission’s primary goals are to:

  1. Infuse the history of Africans and African Americans into the curriculum in order to provide an accurate, complete and inclusive history in New Jersey public school classroom.
  2. Provide professional development, in-service workshops, supportive resources/tools, and a residential summer institutes for New Jersey teachers.
  3. Create curriculum support materials that help teachers to effectively teach content aligned to the revised core curriculum content standards and the New Jersey Student Learning Standards.
  4. Assist in developing lesson plans in accordance with a variety of subject area.
  5. survey, design, encourage, and promote the implementation of education and awareness programs in New Jersey concerned with the contributions of African Americans in building our country.

About the Amistad Legislation

On August 27, 2002, the Governor of New Jersey signed into law the “Amistad Bill” (A1301), sponsored by Assemblymen William D. Payne and Craig A. Stanley. The bill created an “Amistad Commission” in honor of the enslaved Africans who gained their freedom after overthrowing the crew of the slave ship Amistad in 1839. The Commission’s mandate is to promote a wider implementation of educational awareness programs regarding the African slave trade, slavery in America, and the many contributions Africans have made to American society. The Amistad Bill created historic legislation for not only the state of New Jersey but also for opening a revolutionary new chapter for teaching our nation’s history. The New Jersey legislation was and remains an important, national landmark event.

When the Amistad legislation was introduced and passed, the public as well as many K-12 educators, and even many of the Commissioners, presumed that the goal would be to introduce African American history into the K-12 curriculum and to develop public programs on African American history for children, families, and communities. Other states and cities had proposed similar legislation before 2002. In fact, a simple online search reveals curricular materials on African American history nationwide: in Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kansas, the state of Washington, and Georgia.

Instead of following this more obvious strategy, New Jersey took a more complex challenge and established the Amistad Commission.

The Amistad Commission

The Amistad Commission is charged to survey, design, encourage, and promote the implementation of education and awareness programs in New Jersey concerned with the contributions of African-Americans in building our country including the nature of African civilizations, the African origins of African-Americans, their forced migration to the Americas, the nature of slavery and the responses of the enslaved, their roles in the construction of the American colonies and the Republic, the creation of African-American culture, the fight against slavery, the achievement of freedom, the ways in which African-Americans constructed their lives in freedom, their opposition to segregation, the establishment of black institutions, their literacy and cultural productions, the struggle for civil rights, and the contemporary black condition.  The Commission shall develop workshops, institutes, seminars and other teacher training activities designed to educate teachers on this subject matter; and shall be responsible for the coordination of events on a regular basis, throughout the State of New Jersey and provide appropriate memorialization of the events concerning the enslavement of Africans and their descendants in America as well as their struggle for freedom and liberty.

The Commission’s Teaching Resources and Educator Support Committee asserts that African Americans, and all others excluded from the national narrative, shaped this nation’s trajectory in important ways. The Commission also assert that the significance of African Americans, and others, has been devalued in K-12 classrooms. The primary work of this Commission is to provide an inclusive social studies and world history curriculum, especially in United States. The committee approached its work with thoughtful urgency.

The approach also affirms the need for schools to continue to offer separate courses on African Americans as a subfield of United States history. As in other subfields – women’s history, labor history, and ethnic histories – in African American history, scholars interpret the human story from within the African American experience, and through that lens, scholars reveal universal truths about the human experience. Much of the new interpretations of United States history emanate from knowledge discovered within subfields such as African American history.

Supporting NJ Teachers, Administrators and Community Partners

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