WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to help set up 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. Brown introduced the legislation last year with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) after he visited Union Baptist Cemetery in Cincinnati following news reports of vandalism at the cemetery and the cemetery’s call for much-needed repairs. Union Baptist Cemetery was founded in 1864 and includes the remains of former slaves, African American Union soldiers and civil rights activists.

Brown’s bill now heads to the House for passage before it’s sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“We know that for too long in too many parts of our country, Black families were blocked from burying their loved ones in white cemeteries. These men and women were freed slaves, civil rights champions, veterans, mothers, fathers, workers in communities. We need to act now before these sites are lost to the ravages of time or development,” said Brown on the Senate floor today.

Brown’s bill, the African American Burial Grounds Network Study Act, would:

·       Direct the National Park Service to study ways to account for and preserve historic African American cemeteries and burial grounds before they are lost to time, decay, or development.

·       Develop ways to provide grant opportunities and technical assistance to local partners to research, identify, survey and preserve the burial grounds.

In March, at Brown and Alexander’s request, the Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing to discuss the bill.

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’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. A full list of supporting organizations can be found here.