WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, at U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) and Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) request, the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing to discuss the Senators’ African American Burial Grounds Network Act (S. 2827), as well as a number of other bills. Today’s hearing gets the African American Burial Grounds Network Act one-step closer to full committee and Senate passage. The hearing comes after Brown and Alexander sent a letter to Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) in January, urging the committee to hold a hearing on their bipartisan legislation to create a voluntary, nationwide network of African American burial grounds and to provide federal assistance to ensure the burial sites are preserved and maintained for future generations.
“Earlier this year, I joined a group of leaders to visit Union Baptist Cemetery in Cincinnati, and see all the work that was needed to restore the burial ground to the place of honor that it should be,” said Brown. “The bipartisan African American Burial Grounds Network Act would create a voluntary, nationwide network of African American burial grounds, and it would provide federal resources to ensure sites like Union Baptist are preserved and maintained for future generations. Today’s hearing gets us one step closer to establishing this much needed network.”
“This bill will help ensure that African American cemeteries that have been lost or almost forgotten in our country’s history will be identified and preserved,” said Alexander. “According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, most high school seniors in America score the worst in U.S. history. Preserving sites like these will encourage the study of U.S. history and will allow us to better remember these important chapters in our nation’s story.”
Specifically, the African American Burial Grounds Network Act, would:
- Create a voluntary, national database within the National Park Service of historic African American burial grounds and;
- Provide grant opportunities and technical assistance to local partners to research, identify, survey and preserve the burial grounds.
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.
Brown and Alexander’s bill has the support of more than 50 organizations around the country, including the Coalition for American Heritage, Union Baptist Cemetery in Cincinnati and Heritage Ohio.