US: State slavery education commission remains quiet


If a state commission tasked with educating New Yorkers about slavery has been active in recent years, it hasn’t left much of a record of its accomplishments.

A bill to establish the Amistad Commission, sponsored by Assemblyman Keith Wright and Sen. Michael Balboni, was signed in Aug. 2005 by Gov. George Pataki. Chaired by the Secretary of State and run with the assistance of the education department, it was charged with “the coordination of events on a regular basis” to educate New Yorkers about the legacy of slavery and abolitionism. The commission was given the authority to hold workshops and seminars for teachers and to recommend changes to textbooks and school curricula.

The New York Times checked in on its status four years later and found it had “become a modern-day symbol of bureaucratic inertia.” It had never held a meeting, and several of the commission’s seats had never been filled. The Daily News followed up in 2011, finding the commission named for a slave ship conquered by its captives “seems to be sailing to nowhere rather slowly.”

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