With New Jersey preparing to celebrate Juneteenth as an official state holiday for the first time, a legislative package sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano aims to build on the State’s efforts to raise awareness and educate more residents about Black history. The measures would help bring attention to historical figures and events in Black history while supporting current residents of color.
The legislation follows similar legislative endeavors last year, such as the designation of Juneteenth as a state holiday to commemorate the moment the last slaves in America learned of their freedom. New Jersey’s Amistad Commission also gained greater independence to further its mission of promoting African-American history, contributions and experiences in school curricula as a result of a bill Quijano sponsored last year that was recently signed into law.
“African-American history is an integral part of our country’s past that has gone unrecognized for too long,” said Quijano (D-Union). “We must acknowledge the moments and the people who made a difference, such as the Black soldiers who fought for this nation and the slaves who finally achieved freedom. These pivotal moments must never be forgotten, and the people of color living and working in our state today must never be left behind.”
The package is comprised of the following five measures:
- A-4449 (sponsored by Quijano, Shanique Speight & Angela McKnight): Requires school districts to teach students about the background and significance of Juneteenth as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies;
- A-5390 (Quijano & McKnight): Prohibits restrictive covenants that discriminate against anyone based on a protected status – such as their race or nationality – in property deeds;
- ACR-184 (Quijano, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson & Herb Conaway): Respectfully urges federal government to designate ‘Juneteenth’ as a federal holiday;
- AR-237 (Quijano, Anthony Verrelli & Cleopatra Tucker): Honors the life of Tuskegee Airman Shade Meshack Lee – a New Jersey resident who served as part of an elite group of Black men who played a critical role in the Allied victory during World War;
- AJR-228 (Quijano, Benjie Wimberly & Shavonda Sumter): Designates February 28 of each year as ‘Amistad Day.’ This measure was requested by Hillside resident Jimmy Richardson, a historian who wanted the Amistad Rebellion commemorated throughout the state and worked to get a similar resolution passed in Paterson.
Bill A-5390 was recently advanced by the Assembly Housing Committee. The remaining measures have each been referred to the appropriate Assembly committees for consideration.