U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, joined by U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks, Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, and Adriano Espaillat announced the reintroduction of the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center Act. The lawmakers announced the legislation in lower Manhattan at the African Burial Ground. This legislation would establish a museum and education center at the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan, a site that currently holds the remains of an estimated 15,000 free and enslaved Africans and early-generation African-Americans from the colonial era. The museum would be managed by the National Park Service in consultation with the African Burial Ground Advisory Council, which would be established by the legislation. The museum will also serve as a sister site to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is also a cosponsor of the Senate bill. Representatives Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velázquez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ritchie Torres and Jamaal Bowman are all cosponsors of the House version of African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center Act.
“At this moment in time, as our country reckons with the grave injustices and inequalities the African American and Black communities have been subjected to from the earliest days of our nation to today, this museum and educational center is critically important,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to work shoulder to shoulder with members of the New York delegation on this legislation, which would establish the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center at the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan.”
“Tens of thousands of African men and women—both enslaved and free—built New York City. The adversity they faced, the tangible contributions they made, and the lasting impact they left on our city are all part of a story that deserves to be told and honored by New Yorkers,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler (NY-10). “I’m proud to join Senator Gillibrand in reintroducing the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center Act, which would establish a world-class museum as well as an educational and research center on the site of the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, where the remains of over 15,000 Africans are interred. For far too long, their lives have failed to receive the public remembrance or the historic recognition that they merit. With this bill, we hope to rectify that wrong by creating a permanent tribute not only to those resting at the burial ground, but also to the millions of enslaved Africans and their descendants who will be honored at the site.”
“As a former teacher, I firmly believe in the power of education to confront and combat bigotry. Our children are not born with hate in their hearts, and The African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center Act will create an essential resource for educating the public and students about our nation’s sad legacy of racist bigotry,” said Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12). “We must remember the free and enslaved Africans and early-generation African-Americans who helped build our city and nation. Establishing the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center is critical to ensuring that the individuals brought here in bondage who fought against unfathomable adversity are given the recognition they deserve.”
“From the beginnings of our colonial past to long after the formation of our union, enslaved Africans and their descendants have endured bondage and forced labor, followed by segregation and discrimination in America. Their resiliency should be commemorated, and their plight: never forgotten. Constructing the African Burial Ground Memorial Museum will serve to commemorate their bravery, remind us how long the journey towards justice has been, and contextualize the historical roots of the inequities that still persist to this day,” said Representative Gregory Meeks (NY-05).
“African Americans have been in this city since before there was a country. We arrived on New York shores in 1626 in shackles and as a result of our blood, our sweat, our tears, our intellect, our ingenuity and our hard work, we helped to build this great city and nation. We are hopeful that the creation of the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center will play a pivotal role in telling the story of the struggle, survival and eventual triumphs of the millions of brave Africans who were kidnapped and forced into slavery. I commend Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Nadler for their leadership of this incredibly important initiative,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08).
“The painful history of slavery and violence against African Americans shocks the conscience but it requires us to have clear vision and resolve on how to honor the past,” said Rep. Grace Meng (NY-06) “Slowly, but steadily, we are taking proper steps to memorialize such sacred and hallow places, which must always be provided with the recognition, respect, and honor it deserves. This legislation is critical to ensuring that we pay our respects to those who built our city and our nation. We owe it to them to ensure future generations of Americans know of our painful and sad history. By knowing this, we can create a stronger society that recognizes its past. I am proud to cosponsor this bill and I will do all I can to help enact it into law.”
“Slavery marks one of the darkest periods of our nation’s history,” said Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Establishing the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center in New York City, where the remains of nearly 20,000 enslaved Africans and early-generation African-Americans from the colonial era are buried, is a tremendous way to reflect on the significant suffering and injustice slavery had throughout the United States. We can never forget the horrors that were inflicted through slavery, and the African Burial Ground Memorial will play a vital role in our ability to better understand the past, honor the history that all groups of people have on American culture, and recommit to our collective crusade to uphold freedom, equality, and justice for all.”
“The some free and many enslaved men and women who built New York lie in the African Burial Grounds. This landmark serves as more than a cemetery for the 15,000 Africans and African-Americans buried there. It is evidence of this Nation’s limitless cruelty. And evidence of these oppressed peoples’ immeasurable perseverance,” said Representative Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09). “Centuries of oppression warrants an eternity of respect, observance, and remembrance. The establishment of a Memorial Museum and Education Center ensures the light of these 15,000 stories is never dim and the lives of these 15,000 people are never forgotten.”
“On this site lies the remains and legacies of thousands of free and enslaved early African residents of New York who helped to build this City,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07). “We must honor and preserve this part of our national history by sharing their stories with New Yorkers, visitors to the City, and generations to come through the establishment of a museum and educational center right here in Lower Manhattan. I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort and urge Congress to swiftly pass this bill.”
“Establishing the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center in New York City will serve as a tribute to the bravery and resilience of the estimated 15,000 free and enslaved Africans and early-generation African-Americans buried there,” said Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15). “As we continue to fight against discrimination and injustice in America, we must acknowledge the egregious violations of human rights and labor that New York City was built upon. I am proud to work with the New York delegation on this piece of legislation and urge my Congressional colleagues to pass this bill.”
The African Burial Ground is a cemetery located in lower Manhattan that holds the remains of approximately 15,000 free and enslaved Africans from the 17th and 18th centuries. It is the oldest and largest known burial ground in North America for free and enslaved Africans. The African Burial Ground serves great historical, cultural, archaeological and anthropological significance. The burial ground includes DNA samples from the remarkably well-preserved human remains that will enable researchers to trace the home roots in Africa of those individuals buried at the ground. The site became a National Historic Landmark in 1993 and was designated as a national monument in 2006.
The museum would host complementary exhibits and foster collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C as well as other museums, historically Black colleges and universities, historical societies and educational institutions, creating a stronger network of groups focused on strengthening our understanding of slavery and its lasting impact on our history.
Read the text of the bill here.