Home News Gov. Murphy Knocks DeSantis and Expands African American Studies

Gov. Murphy Knocks DeSantis and Expands African American Studies


Currently in New Jersey, just one high school, Union County Vocational-Technical, is offering the pilot multidisciplinary course, which addresses not just history but civil rights, politics, literature, the arts and geography. The names of the other schools where the course will be offered have not been made public because the state is concerned about media attention, a spokeswoman for the governor said.

But six of them are in Newark. Standing next to Mr. Murphy, Ras Baraka, the mayor of Newark, said: “What they have done is politicized it in such a way that people are afraid to say that we should study African American history, that we should allow the L.G.B.T. community to have rights, that there are more cultures in this country that make America what it is.”

Ras Baraka’s father, Amiri Baraka, a famous poet, was mentioned in an earlier draft of the course, but later removed. “The stuff that was taken out is outrageous and that is political. We’re not the political ones here,” Mr. Baraka said.

Mr. DeSantis, who is widely considered a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has repeatedly taken on polarizing culture war issues, including how schools address race, gender and sexuality. His stances have been popular among many parents and helped him win re-election last year by a wide margin. He pledged when he was sworn in to a second term last month that he would continue seeking to make Florida “the land of liberty and the land of sanity.”

Last year, he signed legislation that restricted the way that racism and other aspects of history can be taught in schools and workplaces. The law’s sponsors called it the Stop WOKE Act. Among other things, it prohibits instruction that could make students feel responsibility for or guilt about the past actions of other members of their race.

Mr. Murphy is traveling to Munich on Wednesday to attend a prominent international security conference — which many political observers take it as a sign of his bigger ambitions. He has signed legislation requiring schools to teach Asian American history from kindergarten through high school.

He has also used Mr. DeSantis as something of a political foil: In his state of the state speech last month, Mr. Murphy took a swipe at Mr. DeSantis, although he did not identify him by his name.

“Some governors boast that their state is where ‘woke goes to die.’ I’m not sure I know what that’s supposed to mean,” he said in the speech.

Dana Goldstein contributed reporting.

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