SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND, RANGEL, NADLER, MEEKS, CLARKE, JEFFRIES ANNOUNCE LEGISLATION TO ESTABLISH AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND MUSEUM IN NYC
African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan Holds Remains of 20,000 Enslaved Africans & Early Generation Free African Americans Dating Back to a Time When Lower Manhattan Churchyards Were Off Limits to Black Africans
Schumer, Gillibrand, Rangel, Nadler, Meeks, Clarke, Jeffries Call for Establishment of an African Burial Ground Memorial Museum & Education Center; Museum Will Pay Honor to Thousands of Individuals Buried at Site & Educate Visitors on Our History
Lawmakers: Museum Would Pay a Special Tribute to the African Men & Women Buried At the African Burial Site & Rectify a Centuries-Old Injustice
U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Representatives Charles Rangel, Jerrold Nadler, Gregory Meeks, Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries today introduced legislation that would authorize funding and establish an African Burial Ground Museum in New York City. Located in Lower Manhattan, the African Burial Ground holds the remains of approximately 20,000 enslaved Africans and early-generation free African Americans from the colonial era. The burial site was located on the fringes, outside the walls of the early New York, which over the centuries grew up around it and swallowed it. The grave sites were left unkempt for more than two centuries and in 1991, the grounds were rediscovered as a consequence of the construction of a new Federal Office building. The discovery sparked a grassroots movement to memorialize the early Americans buried there, and to do more to recognize their unique history and contribution to early American society. The African Burial Ground became a National Historic Landmark in 1993. The lawmakers’ legislation, the “African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center Act,” will finally pay honor to the thousands of individuals buried in the African Burial Ground by erecting a museum in Lower Manhattan that more fully recounts the injustices this community suffered, the triumphs they achieved, and the role African Americans – both slave and free – played in the formation of this nation and the City of New York from the very earliest of days. .
“The United States and New York should do right by the thousands of Americans of African heritage buried at the African Burial Ground by erecting a memorial museum in their honor,” said Senator Schumer. “An African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum & Education Center will educate visitors on a shamefully neglected aspect of our country’s history, a history which unfortunately included many injustices directed at Africans and African Americans. That history will also recount the communities many triumphs and their integral contributions to the building of both the American nation and the greatest city in the world from the very earliest days of our history. Congress should pass this legislation which will help rectify injustice, assist deeper understanding of our shared history and pay appropriate homage to the thousands buried at the African Burial Ground, and to their descendants.”
“The establishment of an African Burial Ground Memorial Museum and Education Center will ensure that we educate all visitors about the rich and tragic history of enslaved and free Africans buried in that hallowed ground,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Their contributions to America in the face of great injustice and persecution should not be forgotten, this museum will serve as a symbolic token to those who are buried at this sacred ground. It is a fitting way to share their story with future generations,” saidSenator Gillibrand.
"I am proud to work with Sen. Schumer as well as Reps. Meeks and Nadler to ensure that a vital piece of American history will be preserved and told. By establishing this museum and educational center, we are paying proper tribute to the sacrifices of so many unsung heroes whose blood, sweat and tears helped build the Great City of New York. Future generations must never forget their story nor the significance of this National Monument,” said Rep. Rangel
“The African Burial Ground is a site of the utmost historic and cultural significance for New York City and the United States,” said Rep. Nadler. “On that site lie the remains of thousands of early African residents of New York, providing a powerful reminder of the central role that African-Americans played in building New York City. A Memorial Museum and Educational Center on those grounds will provide a means of paying respects to the thousands buried there, and will educate Americans and others about slavery’s profound impact on our society.”
“I am a proud co sponsor of this legislation to build a memorial museum at the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan. Honoring the thousands of Africans buried at the African Burial Ground will help current and future generations understand the role the international slave trade and the institution of slavery played in the development of our country, and how the legacy of the strength and perseverance of those Africans endures in the spirit of America today. I thank Senator Schumer and Representative Nadler for their role in ensuring that history never forgets the lessons this nation has learned and continues to draw on about slavery, forgiveness, striving for equality, and the fundamental need to respect human rights,” said Rep. Meeks.
“I am proud to join my colleagues in support of the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center Act, which honors the legacy of the thousands of enslaved people whose remains are buried under the skyscrapers and multi-million dollar real estate in Lower Manhattan – women and men seized from their native land in Africa and sent to North America in bondage, whose lives in slavery did not limit their invaluable contributions to the establishment of the infrastructure that houses the economic epicenter of our nation and whose human dignity was denied them even unto their death and burial. Despite all the inhumane treatment to which they were subjected, their historic contribution to our city, state and nation remains a testament to the strength of their indomitable spirit. At a time in history when some elected officials are living in denial and would want to rewrite our nation’s history by trying to omit these horrific chapters – to simply erase the evil of slavery from our history books, as if it had never occurred – we have a shared responsibility to teach our young women and our young men the reality of the history of this nation. At the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center, we will have an opportunity to learn more about that history and its implications for our society today,” said Rep. Clarke
“African slavery was a scourge on the face of humanity and an unspeakable atrocity that should never be forgotten or repeated. We are hopeful that the creation of the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum & 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,” said Rep. Jeffries.
The African Burial Ground National Historic Landmark holds the remains of approximately 20,000 enslaved Africans and early-generation free African Americans. Between the 1690s and 1794, both free and enslaved Africans were buried in the 6.6 acre burial ground in Lower Manhattan, outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam. During this time, the U.S. passed a resolution declaring Lower Manhattan churchyards off limits to African descendants. Centuries of neglect and development concealed the ancient burial site from view until 1992, when a construction project unearthed the grounds.
The African Burial Ground is unlike any other anthropological site in the United States. Today, 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 lawmakers today urged Congress to pass their legislation, which will finally create an African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center in New York City. A memorial museum at the site of the African Burial ground was first recommended by a Federal steering committee in 1992. The lawmakers today said that the museum would provide a fitting location to pay special tribute to those buried at the ground as well as all those enslaved during the history of the United States. The lawmakers went on to say that the museum will pay tribute to those buried at this sacred place, who never came to know equality. The museum will serve as a clear reminder of the strength of the human character in the face of adversity, particularly at a time in America’s history where inequality was not only admissible, but codified in law. The museum would serve as a permanent living memorial to the enslaved who are buried at the African Burial Ground and to other Africans and African Americans who were enslaved.
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