“In presenting the sweeping narrative of American history, African Americans have for too long, been cast in minor roles far from events, personalities and themes that become engrained in every student’s memory. In New Jersey, that is all changing ... ” (Stephanie James Wilson, 2008).
Under legislation sponsored by Assemblymen William D. Payne and Craig A. Stanley, schools in the Garden State are moving to recognize the integral part African-Americans have played at every turn in this nation’s history. The Amistad Bill (A1301), which became law in 2002, calls on New Jersey schools to incorporate African-American history into their social studies curriculum. This legislation also created the Amistad Commission, a 23-member body charged with ensuring that African-American history, contributions and experiences are adequately taught in the state’s classrooms.
The Amistad Commission ensures that the Department of Education and public schools of New Jersey implement materials and texts which integrate the history and contributions of African-Americans and the descendants of the African Diaspora.
- To infuse the history of Africans and African-Americans into the social studies curriculum in order to provide an accurate, complete and inclusive history.
- To ensure that New Jersey teachers are equipped to effectively teach the revised social studies core curriculum content standards.
- To create and coordinate workshops, seminars, institutes, memorials and events which raise public awareness about the importance of the history of African-Americans to the growth and development of American society in global context.
In regular meetings among its commissioners, and through the work of its staff, the Amistad Commission:
- Surveys and inventories educational programs, materials and curricula being used to teach American history in New Jersey schools.
- Guides and acts as a liaison with textbook publishers, schools, resource organizations and federal and state legislators to ensure that American history curricula are consistent with the commission’s goals.
- Builds a directory of volunteer and professional consultants who can share their knowledge of African-American’s roles in American history.