Reps. McEachin and Adams Introduce the ‘African American Burial Grounds Network Act’

February 13, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – In honor of Black History Month, Representatives A. Donald McEachin and Alma S. Adams introduced the “African American Burial Grounds Network Act.” This legislation would create a voluntary national network of historic African-American burial grounds, and would provide information, technical support, and grants to aid in the research, identification, preservation, and restoration of burial sites within the network.

The “African American Burial Grounds Network Act” would provide federal support for historic African-American burial grounds in need of assistance to ensure their preservation for future generations. Historically, the documentation and protection of African-American burial grounds have been shamefully neglected. This legislation aims to address this injustice by providing federal recognition and support for these sacred sites.

For more than two centuries, African-American cemeteries have suffered unjust abuse and neglect,” said Congressman McEachin. “African-American burial grounds are an essential part of our nation’s history and deserve protection. I am proud to co-introduce this legislation, which supports the preservation and restoration of these sacred sites, including Evergreen and East End Cemeteries in my district. Descendants of those interred should be able to visit these sites to honor and remember their family members.”

“Too often, the graves of African Americans have been forgotten or ignored by the communities in which they were located,” said Congresswoman Adams. “This has been a disservice to the memories of those who came before us, and to the preservation of our nation’s history. African American burial grounds are an integral part of our country’s heritage. Creating and maintaining a national network of African American burial grounds will help communities preserve local history while also better informing development decisions and community planning in growing areas like Mecklenburg County.”

Full bill text is available here. Fact sheet is available here.

“We are thrilled that Representative McEachin is building on our work at Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond and other African-American cemeteries in Virginia to protect and restore these sacred spaces across the nation,” said Brett Glymph, Executive Director at Virginia Outdoors Foundation. “These cemeteries, and the stories they tell, are vital to the people who have ancestors buried in them, to the communities they built, and to our shared history as Americans.”

“It’s important we do everything we can to uncover and understand this past and its legacies. That begins with honoring historic burial sites - the only resting place many enslaved Americans ever knew,” said Justin Reid, Director of African American Programs at Virginia Humanities. “We owe them this and more, especially now, as we commemorate their 400-year legacy. We owe ourselves the strengthening power that comes from preserving this history.”

“The Enrichmond Foundation, caretakers of Evergreen, East End, and other historic cemeteries, is proud to support Congressman McEachin and his colleagues as they strive to preserve and restore historic African-American burials grounds throughout America,” said John Sydnor, Executive Director at Enrichmond Foundation. “The African-American Burial Grounds Network Act would be a significant boost to preserving, honoring, and celebrating African-American history and culture. We look forward to working with the Congressman and the National Park Service in brining parity, equity, and focus to these sacred places.”

“The recognition and protection of African American burial grounds enriches our future, not just our past.  It allows us to honor the contributions of generations of Americans, especially in the South, whose role in building America has helped make us the dynamic and diverse country we are today,” said Dr. Dan L. Morrill, Director of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

Endorsing organizations: The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Coalition for American Heritage, Society for American Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology, American Anthropological Association, Association of Black Anthropologists, the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society Inc., Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Preservation of African American Cemeteries Inc., American Cultural Resources Association, United States Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, Save Our Heritage Organization, Preservation North Carolina, Preservation Virginia, Enrichmond Foundation, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Preservation Maryland, Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology, Illinois Archaeological Survey, the Wake Forest Historical Museum, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Virginia Humanities, the Council of Virginia Archaeologists, Black Genealogy Research Group of Oklahoma, River Road African American Museum, River Road African Burial Grounds Coalition, Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens Maintenance & Perpetual Care Association, Preserve Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas African American Heritage Association, Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, and Archaeology Podcast Network.

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Contact: Jamitress Bowden
(202) 225-6365