Today we honor Stephanie James Harris, Ph.D. for our Local History Makers – Black History Month series.
Stephanie James Harris, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Amistad Commission, a division of the Department of Education. This groundbreaking, state mandated educational initiative is tasked with the full infusion and inclusion of African American historical content into New Jersey’s K-12 Social Studies curriculum and statewide Social Studies standards. This infusion was mandated by New Jersey legislation in 2002, and is a statewide overhaul and redirection for Social Studies and the Humanities in all grades in every district throughout the state. This legal mandate is the first of its kind in the nation.
Stephanie received dual degrees, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English with a specialization in African American literature and a Bachelor of Science degree in African American Studies from the University of Maryland – College Park. After receiving her undergraduate degrees, she earned both her Masters and Doctorate of Philosophy from Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa in the Department of Africology and African American Studies.
Dr. Harris has worked in various institutions for more than twenty -five years cross pollinating public education and the infusion of African American historical content and culture via the modality of schools, museums, historical societies, cultural institutions, and the government. She is a firm believer in the power of the contextualization of history for students and that artistic, historical and cultural artifacts are exceptional teaching tools. Coupled with historical research and scholarship, Dr. Harris strives to present our intertwined history as the perfect foundation for the deconstruction of historical mistruths and the necessity for an accurate discussion of American history.
As the Executive Director of the Amistad Commission, Dr. Harris was charged with the responsibility of ensuring that African American’s content, contribution and experiences are historically infused and adequately taught in ALL of the state’s classroom. According to the auspices of the legislation, New Jersey did not design a separate African American Studies course for New Jersey’s school districts, but will make sure that African American content is taught in all levels of Social Studies and the Humanities.
Primary focus of the Amistad Commission, under Stephanie’s leadership, has been the development of the Amistad curriculum, as well as the dissemination of curriculum materials and repository for Social Studies resources to every school in the state. She was responsible for overseeing the direction, design, and content for the Amistad Commission resource, “The Amistad Web-based Curriculum – An Inclusive Journey through American History”. This curriculum resource correlate with the state curriculum benchmarks for Social Studies, Civics, and History. Dr. Harris frequently conducts professional development workshops throughout the state and nation on the utilization of the curriculum resources in compliance with the statewide mandate; as well as the importance of infusing African American historical content into any presentation of American history.
Prior to taking her position at the Amistad Commission, Dr. Harris was the Director of Education and Public Programs at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
As a consultant, Stephanie is also the President & CEO of Imani-Grace Cultural Consulting LLC; an educational and cultural consulting firm that creates and manages a cross section of public and cultural programming, curriculum development, as well as museum exhibition design for varied agencies and institutions. Her consulting firm was subcontracted by BazanED for Paramount Pictures, Fox Searchlight Films, and Focus Features to create the companion educational guide and national curriculum platform for the major motion pictures Belle, Selma, Race, The Birth of a Nation, I am Not Your Negro, Marshall and the Lorraine Hansberry documentary, Sighted Eyes Feeling Heart – these curriculum guides and ancillary film resources are made available to all educators corresponding to the release of these historic films.
Dr. Harris is a member of the New Jersey Department of Education Academic Standards team for Social Studies and the Humanities; she previously sat on the advisory board for the Social Studies curriculum committee for the School District of Philadelphia. Stephanie served two terms (2010-2014) as an elected member of the Pennsauken Township Board of Education, where she served as its Vice-President; she is a Trustee for the Lawnside NJ Education Foundation, and was a past Advisory Member for the Underground Railroad Museum of Burlington County. Stephanie was the honored as one of the 2016 Women of the Year awards from the National Council of Colored Women’s Clubs; 2014 Recipient of Excellence in Academic Leadership award from Omega Psi Phi, Fraternity Inc, was honored as one of the 2013 African American Women Achievers from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Stephanie was honored as one of the NAACP 2011 Distinguished Educators award recipients; 2010 recipients of the NJ – Rahway Chapter NAACP Outstanding Achievement Award. She is a past fellow for the Smithsonian Institution Class of 2000 – Leadership Development seminar entitled “Diversity, Leadership, and Museums”. Stephanie is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. – New Jersey Garden City Alumnae Chapter, the African American Museum Association, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the New Jersey Council for Social Studies, the NAACP, the University of Maryland- College Park Black Alumni Association as well as a membership close to her heart, as a currently active legacy Mother of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. – South Jersey Chapter. Stephanie is also an adjunct History Professor at Rowan University@BCC, Willingboro, NJ and Richard Stockton State University, Galloway, NJ and resides in Merchantville, New Jersey with her teenage sons.