U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Jeffrey Nadler announced the reintroduction of the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center Act in Lower Manhattan.
Back by fellow Congress members Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks, Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, and Adriano Espaillat, Gillibrand and Nadler gathered outside the African Burial Ground National Monument to announce that the bill, if passed, would expand on the burial ground’s existing site.
It would also launch the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Centers.
It is estimated between 10,000 to 20,000 free and enslaved Africans from the 17th and 18th centuries are buried on the grounds. The cemetery is the country’s first and largest African American cemetery. As many as 95% of Africans in New York City from the late 17th through the 18th centuries were enslaved to build the city.
“The museum would create a new venue where we can grow our understanding of the true history of our nation, our state, and at the institution of slavery in the United States and around the world,” Gillibrand said. “At this moment in time, where we are having a reckoning, as a country, on the justices and inequalities the African American black communities have been subjected to from the earliest days of our nation today. This museum and educational center could not be more important.”
The museum would hold a selection of heirlooms and documents and a place to share DNA research tracing the home and ancestral countries of those buried at the African Burial Ground.
“We cannot successfully fight for equality without a clear understanding of the history of slavery in this country. The development of a shared history is not spontaneous. It takes work, dedication, and respect to those who write it,” said Nadler, who also serves as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
In 1993 the burial ground was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was later declared a national monument and placed under the oversight of the National Park Service in 2006.
“We must remember the free and enslaved Africans and older generation African Americans who helped build our great city and our great nation. This has a very important educational center attached to it, which will create an essential resource for educating the public and students about our nation’s sad legacy of racism and bigotry,” said Maloney.