4 Years After Black History Panel's Birth, Its Work Is Still Deferred





Nearly four years after New York State passed a law creating a commission to promote the teaching of black history in public schools, the commission has never met, and 5 of its 19 seats have yet to be filled. For many educators and parents, the Amistad Commission, named after a slave ship seized by its captives, has become a modern-day symbol of bureaucratic inertia.

“New York, a pivotal state in African-American history, has not taken the lead here and we’re languishing,” said Manning Marable, a Columbia University professor of history and public affairs who was the first member appointed to the Amistad Commission. “It’s not just for black people, it’s for everyone. You can’t teach the history of this country effectively without teaching the contributions and experiences of black people.”

The Amistad Commission was modeled after a similar state commission in New Jersey that was established by a 2002 law requiring state schools to make black history part of the required curriculum. At least five other states — Florida, Arkansas, Illinois, Colorado and Michigan — have also adopted legislation requiring or encouraging the teaching of black history in schools, often along with the experiences of other minority groups, according to the Education Commission of the States.


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