Testimony of Descendants Before U.S. Commission on National Monument Inspires Dedication of Memorial to Black Revolutionary War Soldiers in Charles City County, Virginia
Dedication of Elam Baptist Church memorial on January 27 could lead to a National Memorial on the Mall if the Secretary of the Interior accepts the recommendation of the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission
Washington, D.C., (January 10, 2008) – The compelling testimony in June 2006 of descendants of African American soldiers of the Revolutionary War from Charles City County, Virginia before the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission in support of a memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. to their ancestors got the attention of the National Society Sons of the American Revolution.
Just 18 months later, the SAR announced yesterday that it would join the Elam Baptist Church congregation to dedicate a memorial at the Old Elam Cemetery in Ruthville, Virginia to the county’s two dozen African American patriots on Sunday, January 27, 2008. Perhaps as many as “20,000 Black Americans served during the Revolution,” according to SAR President General Bruce A. Wilcox. “The SAR takes seriously its role to preserve the memory of all Revolutionary War Patriots.”
Maurice A. Barboza, president of National Mall Liberty Fund D.C., said, “We are hopeful that Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne will see this dedication as reason to reconsider his decision to reject the recommendation of the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission to preserve land at Constitution Gardens to honor tens of thousands of forgotten African Americans.”
The National Park Service testified before the Senate Energy Committee on September 11, 2007, that the Department of the Interior was opposed to honoring the black patriots on the Mall. The Secretary rejected the advice of the eight-member Memorial Commission that the revised legislation was in conformity with the law that governs commemorative works. The Commission includes the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Department of Defense.
A proponent of the memorial for over 20 years, Barboza said, “Charles City County has done an inspiring job telling the story of its black patriots and compelling history through an impressive website (www.charlescity.org/rwr/) that links county residents to their ancestors.” One of the first black members of the SAR in 1980, he said “I’m inspired by people like Dr. Marion Lane, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and her ancestor, Sergeant Isaac Brown, and the children and their teacher who joined her to plead for the national memorial, as well as the County Board of Supervisors, Rep. Bobby Scott and Judith Ledbetter of the History Center.”
Charles City County was the first county in the nation to approve a resolution of support for the National Liberty Memorial Act in 2006. S. 1051 was introduced by Senators Chris Dodd, Charles Grassley, Barack Obama and Elizabeth Dole. Rep. Scott joined sponsor Rep. Donald Payne and the entire Congressional Black Caucus, including 55 cosponsors, to introduce the companion bill, H.R. 1693, in the House.
National Mall Liberty Fund D.C., is working closely with the Senate Energy Committee and House Natural Resources Committee to ensure the legislation is approved in the next six months. Barboza said, “we want to cooperate with the Interior Department and the National Park Service to build a memorial that will inspire the best in the citizens of the United States.”
There could be tens of thousands of African Americans descended from soldiers of the Revolutionary war, both black and white. For the sake of creating “one nation,” we want the memorials on the Mall, in Charles City County, and elsewhere, to inspire them to discover their heritage.
Last month, the Los Angeles Times political blog reported that the Iowa Society Sons of the American Revolution had extended an invitation to Senator Obama to join the SAR. He is descended from a Maryland patriot who signed an oath of allegiance in 1778.
About National Mall Liberty Fund, D.C.
National Mall Liberty Fund D.C. was founded in 2005 to preserve land already set aside by Congress in 1988 for a memorial to black soldiers and patriots of the Revolutionary War. The organization is cooperating with the SAR to identify descendants and encourage them to embrace their heritage. At least a half dozen African Americans have joined the SAR as a direct result. Incorporated in Washington, D.C., there is more information about the project at www.libertyfunddc.org.
- Contact Information
- Maurice Barboza
- Liberty Fund D.C.
- Contact via E-mail
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