About the Amistad Commission

New York State’s Amistad Commission is charged with researching and surveying the extent to which the African slave trade, American slavery and its aftermath and legacy is included in the curricula of New York state schools; and make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature regarding the implementation of education and awareness programs into schools curricula. The Commission will focus on the contributions of African-Americans in building our country, American History including Abolitionists, Civil Rights movements and other developments to create a greater awareness about the nation’s involvement in slavery to inspire acknowledgement and informed dialogue.

In 2005, New York’s Legislature created an Amistad Commission to review state curriculum regarding how American slavery is taught. All people should know of and remember the human carnage and dehumanizing atrocities committed during this period of American history and consider the vestiges of slavery in this country. It is vital to educate our citizens about our nation’s involvement in slavery to nullify the pervasive myth that Northerners, especially New Yorkers were innocent of slavery. The intention is to explore how slavery is interpreted to our students and the public and seek informed, balanced approaches. We will focus on historical content as well as pedagogy on how to teach slavery, with the hope that it be presented with sensitivity in learning environments and will contribute to the principles of justice, and dignity in a civilized society.

New Jersey, Illinois and New York have each created commissions to review how African American history and 250 years of slavery is taught in America’s classrooms. The Amistad Commissions were named after the Amistad, a Spanish slave ship that was the site of a famous slave revolt in 1839. The ship was seized by the US Navy off the coast of Long Island and taken to Connecticut where the U.S. Supreme Court eventually granted those slaves their freedom. The slave revolt was also the basis for a popular movie by Steven Spielberg, ''Amistad,'' in 1997.

It is the policy of the State of New York that the history of the African slave trade, American slavery, the depth of slavery’s impact on our society and American History, the triumphs of African-Americans and their significant contributions to the development of this country, and the involvement of the entire nation, is the proper concern of all people, particularly students enrolled in the schools of the state of New York.

The Amistad Commission will provide appropriate acknowledgment and recognition regarding slavery, its aftermath and legacy as well as slavery’s descendants in the struggle for freedom and liberty. In addition, the Commission will develop workshops, institutes, seminars, teacher training, resources and other means of addressing slavery, racism, and human rights, as well as develop a roster of individual volunteers and thought leaders able to share their knowledge and expertise with the state’s students and educators. (Revised January 2013)

New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, Article 57B (57.51-57.54) The Amistad Commission >>