At the beginning of April, lawmakers in the US Senate and House of Representatives reintroduced a bill that would expand New York’s African Burial Ground Monument into a museum.
US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Jeffrey Nadler reintroduced the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center Act in a press conference at the monument. If passed, the bill would create a museum that would house historical artifacts related to the site. The museum would also function as a research center for DNA tracing of the people buried there. Lawmakers also see the proposed museum as a sister institute to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
At the press conference, Senator Gillibrand tied the legislation to recent protests against racism. “The museum would create a new venue where we can grow our understanding of the true history of our nation, our state, and the institution of slavery in the United States and around the world. At this moment in time, where we are having a reckoning, as a country, on the injustices and inequalities the African American black communities have been subjected to from the earliest days of our nation today. This museum and educational center could not be more important,” Gillibrand said.
The African Burial Ground Monument is one of the earliest and largest excavated cemeteries of people of African descent in North America. The burial ground holds the remains of more than 15,000 enslaved and free Black people from the 17th and 18th centuries. The remains were discovered in 1991 during construction on a new federal office building. In 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed the site a national monument.