Black History

Not Forgotten

Lest We Forget: “Scientists who examined African Burial Ground graves in Lower Manhattan found enslaved Africans lived agonizing lives here in New York City,” said Ayo Harrington, founder, Friends of the African Burial Ground (in Lower Manhattan) said at a press conference, Monday, called by Congressman Dan Goldman to announce renewed efforts to push a bill to establish an ABG museum and education center . “They were overworked, underfed, diseased. While freed Africans existed in colonial New York, their rights were restricted. And 95% were enslaved and forced to build the city, performing back-breaking work, clearing land widening roads, building houses, bridges, mills and the first City Hall.”

Legislation for Establishment of African Burial Ground Museum and Education Center Reintroduced

by Bernice Elizabeth Green

Congressman Dan Goldman (D-10) announced the reintroduction of the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center Act Monday, in Lower Manhattan at the African Burial Ground site, joined by U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-12) who first introduced it.

The legislation initially spearheaded by Nadler and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand over the years with support from New York Democrats, would establish a museum and education center at the site that holds an estimated 15,000 former enslaved and free Africans of the Colonial-era and early-generation African Americans.

Cong Goldman’s announcement established his full commitment and affirmed his dedication to continuing the work of Nadler, who was previously the representative for New York’s 10th Congressional District as a Democrat from 2013 to 2022. He introduced the H.R. 2528 bill for the Act on April 14, 2021, with Gillibrand. It didn’t pass.

Due to redistricting Goldman, now represents New York’s 10th CD. In the press conference, Nadler said he would continue to “keep going” in support of his friend, Goldman – who reintroduced the stalled legislation on Tuesday.

African Burial Ground Advocates: Ayo Harrington (center), social justice advocate and the Founder of the Friends of the African Burial Ground, and architect Rodney Leon (far left), who created the design and helmed the build of the memorial, a national monument, spoke at the February 27 press conference called by Congressman Dan Goldman (NY-10), second from left, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-12), third from right. The Congressional members were also joined by Kamau Ware, founder of the Black Gotham Experience visual storytelling project and Harrington’s other friends. At the conference, Goldman and Nadler announced a redoubling of the effort to push to success the stalled bill establishing an ABG museum and education center. Goldman is driving the effort after redistricting last year moved Nadler to District 12, leaving Destrict 10 to Goldman .

Monday, it was almost ceremonial as Rep. Nadler passed leadership of the bill to Representative Goldman in the 118th Congress. A few years ago, he said, “We cannot tell the true American story without lifting off and recognizing the sacrifice, the pain, the suffering, and the death that enslaved Africans endured.

“It also is so important that we have a permanent and living and accessible memorial and museum for those enslaved Africans who are buried right here. This effort represents truth and a continuation of our journey toward a more perfect union.”

In the CRS bill summary, H.R. 2528, introduced by Nadler and Gillibrand in the House April 14, 2021, establishes the Memorial Museum and Educational Center at the African Burial Ground National Monument. It calls for the acquisition of property that is located adjacent to or near the ABG Historic Landmark in the city “other than the location adjacent to the monument. Also, a museum would be constructed on the acquired property. Also, an African Burial Ground Advisory Council would be established within the Department of the Interior to make recommendations on the construction and “advise and assist the Interior on all matters relating to the operation and preservation of the museum.”

The National Park Service would manage the African Burial Ground Museum in consultation with the African Burial Ground Advisory Council.

According to his office, Goldman legislation, introduced on Tuesday, “calls for the appropriation of $15 million in 2024 for the creation of the museum on are near the site”.

“Black History is American History,” said Goldman, “and now, more than ever, as Black History comes under attack from extreme conservatives who would like to whitewash the history of this nation, we must work to uplift that history.


“That’s why I am introducing the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center Act so that we can … pass on the lessons and memory of everything it symbolizes.”

Active from the 1600s to 1795, the long-forgotten 7-acre “Negros burying ground”

was unearthed in 1991 when construction workers, on an excavation project in front of the Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway, discovered the remains of over 400 Africans and hundreds of relics. Then-Mayor David Dinkins, NYC’s first African American to hold the office, created the Mayor’s Committee on the African Burial Ground to advise on how to move forward.

The African Burial Ground became a National Historic Landmark two years after the discovery.

In 2005, Rep. Nadler and then-Senator Hillary Clinton (NY) introduced legislation to establish the African Burial Ground as a National Historic Site and to create a museum and visitors center in partnership with the community.


In 2006, Presidential Proclamation 7984 issued by former President George W. Bush designated the African Burial Ground a National Monument, giving it status on par with The White House.

In 2007: Rep. Nadler first introduced the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center Act to direct the National Park Service to acquire a property and to fund the construction and operation of a museum.

“I am proud to have authored the legislation that led to the 2006 designation of the African Burial Ground National Monument with then-Senator Hillary Clinton,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler. “Our original legislation also called for an education and museum to tell the untold stories of those who helped build New York City and shed light on their perseverance and strength of character in the face of unbearable hardships, discrimination, and exploitation. I am thrilled that my friend Representative Goldman is now leading this important legislation to finally make an International Memorial Museum and Education Center at the site a reality.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a long-time supporter of the Act, unable to attend the news conference, sent a message. “The African Burial Ground is an important part of New York City’s history, serving as a permanent tribute to the enslaved and free African men and women who lived in and helped build the foundations of New York. Establishing a museum and educational center at the African Burial Ground National Monument would memorialize their stories and honor their legacies.”

Representative Grace Meng, a co-sponsor, said: “Black Americans were one of the most influential people in helping construct our nation from the ground up and played a massive role in helping build our beloved New York City. Throughout the horrors of generations of slavery and constant adversity in the years that followed, they persevered and left a continuing impact on our city. Honoring and recognizing the contributions of this community, contributions that are still being provided today, is not only fair and right but overdue.


“I am proud to rejoin this effort. The bill for this permanent site, now spearheaded by Congressman Goldman and previously carried by Congressman Nadler, which is also supported by so many key figures in the New York delegation, would be an amazing and heartfelt tribute commemorating the millions of Africans brought to these shores against their will.”

“The African Burial Ground is … a stark and sobering reminder of the fact that New York and America were built by Black Americans, and to a great extent on the backs of Black Americans.”

Among the staunch supporters of the effort, with Gillibrand, Nadler, Meng and Goldman, are Senators Charles E. Schumer, most prominently, and Congressional members, including Gregory Meeks, Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, and Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney.

The words in spring 2021 of some of the legislative supporters, not present at the Monday announcement, echo to the present. Said Meeks (NY-05): “From the beginnings of our colonial past to long after the formation of our union, enslaved Africans and their descendants have endured bondage and forced labor, followed by segregation and discrimination in America. Their resiliency should be commemorated, and their plight: never forgotten.,” said Representative Gregory Meeks (NY-05).

“African Americans have been in this city since before there was a country. We arrived on New York shores in 1626 in shackles, and as a result of our blood, our sweat, our tears, our intellect, our ingenuity, and our hard work, we helped to build this great city and nation. We are hopeful that the creation of the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Education Center will play a pivotal role in telling the story of the struggle, survival, and eventual triumphs of the millions of brave Africans who were kidnapped and forced into slavery,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08).


“Slavery marks one of the darkest periods of our nation’s history,” said Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Establishing the African Burial Ground International Memorial Museum and Educational Center in New York City, where the remains of nearly 20,000 enslaved Africans and early-generation African-Americans from the colonial era are buried, is a tremendous way to reflect on the significant suffering and injustice slavery had throughout the United States. We can never forget the horrors that were inflicted through slavery, and the African Burial Ground Memorial will play a vital role in our ability to understand the past better, honor the history that all groups of people have on American culture, and recommit to our collective crusade to uphold freedom, equality, and justice for all.”

“This landmark serves as more than a cemetery for the 15,000 Africans and African-Americans buried there. It is evidence of this Nation’s limitless cruelty. And evidence of these oppressed peoples’ immeasurable perseverance,” said Representative Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) in 2021. “Centuries of oppression warrant an eternity of respect, observance, and remembrance. The establishment of a Memorial Museum and Education Center ensures the light of these 15,000 stories is never dim, and the lives of these 15,000 people are never forgotten.”

Cong. Dan Goldman to Take the Lead in Efforts forged by Representatives Nadler and Gillibrand

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