In unmistakable language aimed at specific people and organizations, Gov. Phil Murphy used an address at the Juneteenth Black Business Expo to rip those looking to ban or modify the teaching of the country’s shameful historical period of slavery.
Murphy, speaking Thursday at Montclair State at an event sponsored by the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, took aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (and others elected officials who share his views) and the College Board for their stances toward giving a full and proper account of slavery in the United States.
“Regressive lawmakers around the country are seeking to whitewash history, censor textbooks and water down education,” he said. “It’s extraordinary that leaders have the gall to equate learning our history – the good, bad and the ugly – with being woke.
“When was slavery, and the impact of slavery, ever associated with anything woke?”
Murphy then answered his own questions.
“You’ve seen it,” he said. “I’ll pick on Florida and their governor. You’ve seen them banning textbooks. You know what we did? We wrote a letter to all the chief executive officers of all the big textbook publishers and said, ‘If you dare water down our history, you will never sell another book in our state.’”
Murphy had stronger criticism for The College Board, which – at the insistence of DeSantis – agreed to modify their AP course on Black History.
“The College Board, which I used to think of as an honorable institution, turns out has no backbone,” he said. “In Florida (they) watered down the version of the African American AP curriculum.
“You know what we did? Literally within days, (Newark) Mayor Ras Baraka and I said New Jersey is going to go from one high school in Union County that teaches an African American AP Curriculum this year to 26 high schools in September. And that number is only going up.
“As our nation continues to grapple with its past, I hope we can find a way forward, not by hiding from our history, but by learning from our history. So, we must acknowledge even our most shameful past actions – and, only then, will we be the nation that we claim to be.”
Murphy said New Jersey is among the places that needs to account for its past.
“I am not proud to say it, but I must: Here in New Jersey, our history has been disgraceful and deeply flawed at times,” he said. “New Jersey was the last northern state to abolish slavery, and it did so in a way that left some, believe it or not, enslaved as late as the 1860s.
“That is why in 2020, alongside Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, I was proud (to make) Juneteenth an official state holiday. We must collectively grapple with the long generational effects of slavery and injustice that have hurt Black Americans. We cannot avoid that conversation any longer.”
Watch the entire speech here, courtesy of Green Glass Films in Plainfield.