Shedding light on slavery in the north

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OYSTER BAY, New York (AP) -- A group of mostly white seventh and eighth graders sleepily sauntered into their school library one recent morning, soon to get a surprise awakening about a part of their town's history they never knew existed.

"Did anybody in this room know there were 60 enslaved Africans, people, human beings, buried a mile from here?" Alan Singer, a professor at Hofstra University, asked them. "Those people have been erased from history. It is as if they never existed."

Singer and Mary Carter, a retired middle school social studies teacher, were in Oyster Bay to speak to the kids -- part of a quest to develop a public school curriculum guide focusing on slavery's impact in the northern U.S., specifically New York.

Their efforts have been buoyed by state legislation enacted last year creating the Amistad Commission to examine whether the slave trade is being adequately taught in New York schools.

The commission, one of a number formed around the country in recent years, is named for the slave ship Amistad, which was commandeered by slaves who eventually won their freedom in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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