Senator Montgomery Co-sponsors Bill Calling Attention To Impact of African Slave Trade on America's History

Velmanette Montgomery

June 25, 2005

Albany, New York (June 24, 2005): "America’s history is incomplete without the telling of the torturous African slave trade, the vestiges of slavery and racism, and the triumphs of African-Americans," said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) in applauding the passage of legislation she co-sponsored that provides for greater public education of Black History in America.

The bill (S.4289-B/A.6362-B), which passed the Assembly and Senate during the final days of the 2005 Legislative Session, creates the 19-member Amistad Commission with responsibility for reviewing statewide school curricula regarding slavery in America. The panel is further required to report its findings and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor about workshops, teacher training, school-based programs, and other public venues for addressing the legacy of slavery and racism with greater understanding of and adherence to the principles of human rights.

Members of the proposed Commission include the Secretary of State, Commissioner of Education, Chancellor of the State University of New York, and citizens appionted by the Governor and legislative leaders.

The Amistad Commission is named in honor of the group of enslaved Africans led by Joseph Cinque who, while being transported in 1839 on a vessel named the Amistad, gained their freedom after overthrowing the crew and eventually having their case successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court.

As the legislation points out, during the period beginning in the late 15th Century through the 19th Century, millions of persons of African origin were enslaved and brought to the Western Hemisphere, including the United States of America. Tragically, between 20 and 50 percent of this population died during the journey.

Montgomery said, "The enslavement of Africans and their descendants represents physical and psychological terrorism that deprived groups of people of African descent the opportunity to preserve many of their social, religious, political and other cultural customs.

"The Amistad Commission will help to ensure that people of all ages know and remember the human carnage and dehumanizing atrocities associated with slavery in America."

The Amistad Commission bill must now be approved by the Governor before becoming law.