Advocacy

Issue Brief: African-American Burial Grounds Preservation Act

THE ISSUE

ASLA supports legislation that helps to identify and protect historic and cultural sites and landscapes of national, regional, and local significance, including African American burial sites. ASLA believes that heritage practices and policies should stimulate community involvement, promote equity, improve economic and ecological health, and deepen our connections to places and to each other.

Background

For centuries, African American burial sites have been devalued and neglected. During the period of 1619-1865, slaveholders often determined the location and manner in which African Americans were buried, typically directing these burials away from sites they deemed to be valuable land. These burial sites were rarely ever mapped or otherwise documented. Following the abolition of slavery, harmful exclusions and restrictions on African American burial sites persisted. Even when documented, these grounds most often did not receive proper maintenance and were allowed to fall into disrepair.

This lack of both historical record-keeping and landscape maintenance leaves behind an indefensible degree of anonymity and ignorance in the relationship between the living and the dead. “Graveyards, burial grounds, and cemeteries not only honor our ancestors; they’re also an important resource for historians and genealogists who want to tell our history. However, the burial sites of African Americans are often forgotten or ignored,” said Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC).


Bill Summary

In February 2022, Representative Alma Adams (NC) and Senator Brown (OH) announced the introduction of the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act. This act would authorize the National Parks Service to coordinate initiatives designed to identify, interpret, research, preserve, and record African-American burial grounds that have been left unmarked, previously abandoned, or underserved.

To carry out these initiatives, this act would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to distribute grant funding to other Federal agencies, State, local, and Tribal governments, other public entities, educational institutions, historic preservation groups, and private nonprofit organizations. These grants will total $3 million annually between 2023-2027.


Recent Action

On February 22, 2022, H.R. 6805 was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. On March 28, 2022, the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on the bill.

On February 16, 2022, 
S.3667 was introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. On May 11, 2022, the subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing on the bill.

Sponsors

H.R. 6805: Representative Alma Adams (NC), and cosponsors.

S. 3667: Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), and cosponsors.
  

Contact

Roxanne Blackwell, 
Esq., Hon. ASLA,
Director of Federal
Government Affairs
governmentaffairs@asla.org

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs
governmentaffairs@asla.org

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