A New Jersey law signed by Governor Phil Murphy in early January aims to improve Black history education in the state.
The new law strengthens the Amistad Commission, a body founded in 2002 with the mission of bolstering education on the contributions of African Americans. The law will give the commission greater independence by giving it its own line item in the state budget. It also designates the Amistad Commission as “in but not of” the Department of Education– meaning that it is located within the department but operates independently.
The new legislation also aims to make sure that the curriculum developed by the commission is used more widely. It mandates that curricula on the accomplishments of African Americans must be included on all classes on United States history. The Amistad Commission currently works with textbook publishers and schools to ensure that African American history curricula are consistent with the commission’s goals.
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, one of the bill’s sponsors, told WHYY that the new law will help people connect the country’s past to the present, specifically referencing the recent Black Lives Matter protests. “There’s reasons why people are protesting. There’s reasons why individuals are so frustrated they just can’t take it anymore. And there are reasons why they took to the streets,” Quijano said.