Black history is American history, yet in Ohio and all over the country, too many African American burial grounds have fallen into disrepair. We have not invested the resources we should to preserve these historic places.
Earlier this week, I visited Cincinnati to see all the work that is needed to restore the Union Baptist Cemetery. The burial ground is an historic place where Black union soldiers, civil rights activists, former slaves, and so many other Black Ohioans have their final resting place.
That’s why I introduced the bipartisan African American Burial Grounds Network Act, to create a voluntary, nationwide network of African American burial grounds within the National Park Service. The legislation would also provide federal resources to ensure sites – like Union Baptist – are preserved and maintained for future generations by providing grant opportunities and technical assistance.
Burial grounds in every culture are considered sacred places where ancestors can be laid to rest and properly honored.
But for many African American burial sites, there is no official record or database of where these sites are located. Creating and maintaining a network of African-American burial grounds will help communities preserve local history while better informing development decisions and community planning.
This week, we also celebrated Veterans Day with events around Ohio, saluting those who sacrificed so much for our country. This legislation would help us honor the 120 Black Union soldiers buried at Union Baptist, who sacrificed their lives for a country that did not yet even recognize them as full citizens, and Black veterans in cemeteries all over the nation.
Let’s honor these veterans with more than kind words – let’s restore their final resting places to the sites of honor and respect that all our veterans deserve.