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Senate Approves Sweeney-Rice-Ruiz Plan to Promote Amistad Curriculum

Trenton – The state would create an Amistad Commission Exemplary Award Program for teachers and schools that perform exemplary service by providing instruction on slavery and African-American history, under terms of legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Ronald Rice and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz that gained the approval of the Senate.

The bill, S-3654, would establish the “Amistad Commission Exemplary Award Program” to recognize and support outstanding educators and their school districts for furthering student knowledge on the African slave trade, slavery in America, the vestiges of slavery in this country, and the contributions of African-Americans to society.

“The Amistad curriculum is a highly regarded educational program that infuses the history of African-Americans, the hardships they have overcome and the important contributions they have made to society into lesson plans,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “By honoring educators who have implemented this curriculum effectively, we are supporting an honest accounting of the shameful legacy of slavery, the rich history of African-American accomplishments and the many reasons for cultural pride.”

“Black history is American history. However, for too long, teaching this history and the history of slavery in this country was either rushed through or completely glossed over; this is why the Amistad Commission was created,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “The Amistad curriculum teaches young folks about some of the darkest periods in our country’s history, and yet, also imparts on them the historical, cultural and social influences and advancements Black Americans have had on the United States. By rewarding and recognizing the efforts of some teachers who effectively educate this part of our history, we are incentivizing all educators to do the same.”

“The story of America is one that was built with many people, but oftentimes this is not captured in our textbooks or taught in the curriculum. The Amistad Commission does important work towards ensuring that all of our students have a well-rounded understanding of the cultural, economic and societal impact that African-Americans have had on our nation and our state,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Every opportunity we get to applaud the efforts of teachers who are going above and beyond is meaningful. This program will allow us to show our appreciation for educators who are doing an exceptional job uplifting the voices and contributions of African-Americans.”

“We are proud to support the Amistad Commission Exemplary Award Program,” said NJEA President Marie Blistan. “By identifying and honoring educators who do an exceptional job of integrating that critical content into their instruction, we will provide models that all educators can emulate. By learning from those innovators, we can achieve our goals of ensuring that every student better understands this troubling but important part of our history.”

Under the bill, the Amistad Commission would establish the “Amistad Commission Exemplary Award Committee” to invite nominations for the award from school districts, charter schools, and renaissance schools of teachers and schools that excelled in furthering student knowledge on African-American history. Two award recipients would be named annually, one from a kindergarten-eighth grade school and one from a high school, and they would each receive $2,500. Each school district that receives an award would also receive $2,500 to assist other educators to implement the curriculum and teaching techniques used by successful educators.

The Senate vote was 38-0.