The Preservation Resource Center has asked U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy and U.S. Rep. Troy Carter to co-sponsor the African American Burial Grounds Act. The bipartisan initiative to pass similar bills (H.R. 6805 in the U.S. House of Representatives and S. 3667 in the U.S. Senate) is supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Anthropological Association and the American Society of Landscape Architects, among other groups.
If passed, the legislation would establish a grant program administered by the National Park Service to distribute up to $3 million annually for the identification and preservation of African American burial places. Across the nation, and particularly in the Southeastern United States, descendent communities are working to find and restore long-neglected cemeteries. In some cases, the burial sites of slaves and their descendants were not well-recorded or respected; in others, migration, economic hardship and predatory land acquisition have left once-formal cemeteries overgrown and neglected.
Locally, Lafayette Cemetery No. 2 in Central City contains the city’s best collection of Black benevolent society tombs. If these crumbling tombs are restored, they will be a source of pride, show respect to the legacies of these organizations and draw visitors to the area. In nearby St. John the Baptist Parish, the potential for construction of a grain elevator to disturb the unmarked graves of enslaved people is at the center of a dispute over the proposed multimillion-dollar project. Proactive identification of such burial sites can inform infrastructure siting and minimize conflicts.
You can show your support for the African American Burial Grounds Act by asking your lawmakers to co-sponsor the legislation. Take action now. A relatively small investment by the federal government can be transformative for these sacred, endangered places.
Photo by KSloane-Boekbinder via Wikimedia Commons