New Jersey’s two U.S. Senators introduced legislation to further tell the story of the African American experience in America.
The African American History Act was recently introduced by Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez into the upper chamber. The lawmakers promoted the legislation, a companion of the version introduced by Rep. Jamaal Bowmans (D-NY), as providing resources to strengthen opportunities to educate the American public about the richness and complexity of African American history, the impacts racism, white supremacy, and the struggle for justice have had on the fabric of America.
“As we begin Black History Month, I am proud to introduce this legislation that will invest in initiatives to make African American history education programs more accessible to the public, help educators incorporate these programs into their curriculum, and develop additional resources focused on Black History for students and families to engage with,” said Booker in a press statement Feb. 10 when the legislation was announced.
Black History Month Initiative
“The story of Black people in America is inextricably linked to the story of America,” continued the former mayor of Newark. “This story must be reckoned with so that we can honestly reflect upon our nation’s past moral wrongs and the long and ongoing quest for justice that has been undertaken by Black Americans.”
The legislation would invest $10 million over five years in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to support African American history education programs that are voluntarily available for students, parents, and educators.
Confronting Racism Through Education
Menendez offered that during a time when millions of Americans are still confronting the “despicable impacts of racism, it is more important than ever that we promote the education on the history of African Americans.”
“As we begin this year’s Black History Month, the best way we can honor the heritage and countless contributions of African Americans is by ensuring the rich history of this community is widely accessible and that no one forgets the ongoing struggle for justice and equality,” said New Jersey’s senior Senator.
Endorsing organizations include the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National Women’s Law Center, Color of Change, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Network for Public Education, Alliance for Quality Education, SchoolHouse Connection, and the American Psychological Organization.
“Let’s start with a basic fact: You cannot understand American history without knowing African American history,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Some people are making this a wedge issue—even bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history.”
“This bill will make sure every student learns about the history and contributions of African Americans throughout the years. And every educator should have the training and tools they need to engage and teach African American history.”
Backers of the bill are promoting the measure as a way to help the NMAAHC expand and improve upon their work in a variety of ways.
The funds would be earmarked to develop and maintain resources to promote an understanding of African American history, including a collection of digital content, housed on the NMAAHC website, to assist educators, students, and families across the country in teaching about and engaging with African American history; engaging with the public through programming, resources, and social media to increase awareness of African American history through a social justice and anti-bias lens; convening experts and creating and disseminating scholarly work; and translating new and existing NMAAHC work into multiple languages.