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Breaking Bias: Lessons from the Amistad

New Jersey’s Amistad Legislation requires K-12 educators to teach African American history as American history and not just relegate the learning of this history to Black History Month. Breaking Bias: Lessons from the Amistad looks at this history through an anti-bias lens and highlights the contributions that African Americans have made to the United States as well as the lessons our country has learned from African American history.

The legislation also established New Jersey’s Amistad Commission, which created a valuable online curriculum and resources. The NJSBF’s guide is intended to complement the Commission’s curriculum. Where the Commission’s curriculum is focused on the history of African Americans from the times of ancient Africa to the present, the Foundation’s curriculum serves as a tool that ties the law to the lessons of the Amistad. By taking a deeper look at the overt and covert impact of racism and empathy, equity and equality, class and justice, educators and students will come to understand the systemic themes which arise from African American history in this country.

The Foundation’s six-unit curriculum specifically focuses on how African Americans have not only been victims but agents of their own change throughout history, how racial oppression has transformed over time in the U.S. and what our responsibilities are, both individually and collectively, to respond to racism. The curriculum looks to answer the following questions (and many more):

  • What is race?
  • What have been the consequences of social constructs about race in our country?
  • How was chattel slavery a national problem that was reinforced in both the North and the South?
  • How did enslaved people and other African Americans resist oppression and bring about positive change?
  • How did resistance and resilience among African Americans bring progress despite the obstacles in their path?
  • In what ways did the Jim Crow era reinvent earlier forms of African American oppression?
  • What rights were African Americans demanding during the civil rights era, and why was there resistance from many white communities to sharing these rights?
  • How does racial bias in media impact real-life policies and practices that affect the lives of African Americans?

For more on diversity and social justice issues, subscribe to Respect, the Foundation’s diversity newsletter or checkout posts on our blog, The Rundown.