New law: P.L.2020, c.153 Allocates Amistad Commission in but not of DOE; requires commission to elect chairperson and appoint executive director; requires public schools to include instruction on accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to American society.

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Legislation amending state law guiding the New Jersey Amistad Commission was signed into law by the Governor this week.


The Amistad Commission is a 23-member panel named 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.


Under the original statute, the Amistad Commission was established in the Executive Branch and allocated within the Department of State. In June 2011, Governor Chris Christie issued Reorganization Plan No. 004-2011 to transfer the Amistad Commission from the Department of State to the Department of Education to improve efficiency and quality in the performance of the commission’s duties.


This bill (S-1028) amended the law creating the Amistad Commission to provide that the commission is officially allocated in but not of the Department of Education, which means the commission would be independent of any supervision or control by the department. It also provides that State support for the operations of the Amistad Commission would be appropriated by the Legislature to the commission through a separate line item in the annual appropriations act.


Additionally, the bill would supplement existing law to require all boards of education to include instruction that infuses into all courses on the United States, the centuries of accomplishments by African Americans in the building and development of America including, but not limited to, the areas of industry, the professions, local communities, culture, arts, and the sciences.  The instruction must enable students to know and understand the nation’s heritage of slavery and freedom and the contributions of African Americans to all areas of American society throughout history.  The instruction must also emphasize the personal responsibility of each citizen to fight racism and hatred and to uphold the national ideals of freedom and justice.  The bill directs the Department of Education to work with the Amistad Commission to ensure that the assessment tools for New Jersey schools are inclusive of the curricular requirements established under the bill.


Governor Murphy signed S-1028 into law on January 7, 2021.