The following is a press release issued by U.S. Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12) and Representatives A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01):
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, in honor of Black History Month, Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12) and Representatives A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) introduced the bipartisan African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act, would establish a program at the National Park Service to provide grant opportunities and technical assistance to local partners to research, identify, survey and preserve these historic sites.
“Graveyards, burial grounds, and cemeteries not only honor our ancestors; they’re also an important resource for historians and genealogists who want to tell our history. However, the burial sites of African Americans are often forgotten or ignored,” said Congresswoman Adams. “This dishonors the memories of those who came before us and obscures our nation’s history. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the ‘African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act.’ with Senator Brown and Representative McEachin. This legislation will provide federal support for historic African American burial grounds to ensure their preservation. I can’t think of a better time than Black History Month to take an affirmative step to preserve our history for generations to come.”
“Since the inception of our country, the graves of African Americans have suffered unjust abuse and neglect,” said Rep. McEachin. “These burial sites hold the untold stories of millions of African Americans and the integral role they played in our nation’s trajectory. I am proud to stand alongside Congresswoman Adams and Senator Brown to introduce the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act to preserve predominantly Black cemeteries and other resting places. The protection of these burial grounds is long overdue and critical to ensuring a more complete, comprehensive understanding of America’s history.”
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a companion bill in the Senate last week with bipartisan cosponsor Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT).
“As a nation, we have not invested the necessary resources to preserve these hallowed grounds. That’s why we’ve worked with the community, and with civil rights, veterans, and historic preservation groups to introduce bipartisan legislation to preserve historic Black burial grounds around the country,” said Senator Brown. “Cemeteries like Union Baptist are important historical sites, and they’re tools for education and understanding the American story. We need to act now before these sites are lost to the ravages of time or development.”
Last Congress, Reps. McEachin and Adams introduced the African American Burial Grounds Network Act to create a voluntary national network of historic African-American burial grounds. Today’s legislation will take more immediate steps, establish a competitive grant program, and aid localities in acquiring the funding necessary to preserve these burial sites.
Scores of local, state, and national organizations are supporting the legislation, including the Coalition for American Heritage, United Negro College Fund, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Archaeological Institute of America, American Anthropological Association, American Battlefield Trust, American History Press, Fearnbach History Services, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, New South Associates, Preservation Action and the Society of Black Archaeologists Society for Historical Archaeology.