IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
November 7, 2019
Mr. Brown (for himself and Mr. Alexander) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
To amend title 54, United States Code, to establish within the National Park Service the U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network Act.
Congress finds that—
during the period beginning in 1619 and ending in 1865, millions of African Americans throughout the United States were enslaved;
controlled where and how deceased slaves were buried; and
prohibited the burial of slaves on valuable land;
as a result of the practices described in paragraph (2), slave burial grounds were often confined to remote areas or marginal property;
slave burial grounds—
were rarely documented; and
infrequently appear on historical maps;
a lack of accurate information is typical of African-American cemeteries originating before the Civil War;
following the end of slavery, many African-American families continued to face restrictions on where the deceased could be buried;
across many areas of the United States, local laws segregated burial sites by race;
African-American burial grounds often failed to receive the type of maintenance and recordkeeping that predominantly White burial grounds enjoyed;
many African-American burial grounds from before and after the Civil War are in a state of disrepair or inaccessibility due to overgrowth of vegetation, crumbling physical structures, and other challenges;
there is no official national record or database for African-American burial ground locations;
the location of many African-American burial sites is unknown;
as a result of the issues described in paragraphs (10) and (11), the family members and descendants of the individuals interred are unable to visit the burial sites to honor and remember their ancestors;
abandoned African-American burial grounds are often discovered when construction projects inadvertently disturb human remains, which slows or halts completion of the projects;
the presence and location of historic African-American burial grounds should be recorded;
there should be coordinated national, State, local, and Tribal efforts to preserve and restore African-American burial grounds;
African-American burial grounds are an integral component of the heritage of the United States; and
creating and maintaining a network of previously abandoned, underserved, and other African-American burial grounds would help communities identify and record burial grounds and preserve local history, while better informing development decisions and community planning.
The purpose of this Act is to authorize the National Park Service to coordinate and facilitate Federal activities and non-Federal activities to identify, interpret, preserve, and record unmarked, previously abandoned, underserved, and other African-American burial grounds.
U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network Program
Subdivision 1 of division B of subtitle III of title 54, United States Code, is amended by inserting after chapter 3085 the following:
U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network
308602. U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network.
308603. Authority to make grants.
308604. Cooperative agreements and memoranda of understanding.
308605. Private property protection.
In this chapter:
The term burial ground means any natural or prepared physical location, whether originally below, on, or above the surface of the earth, into which human remains are deposited as a part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture.
The term historic, with respect to a property, means a property that can reasonably be considered to date back at least 50 years.
The term Network means the U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network established under section 308602(a).
U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network
The Secretary shall establish within the Service, in accordance with this chapter, a program to be known as the
U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network.
The Network shall include burial grounds determined by the Secretary to relate to the historic African-American experience from applications for inclusion submitted by an individual, private or nonprofit organization, State, local, or Tribal government, or other entity.
Duties of Secretary
In carrying out the Network, the Secretary shall have the following duties:
Review existing and new studies and reports in considering sites for inclusion in the Network.
Provide technical assistance to, and work in partnership with, the public, Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments, other public entities, educational institutions, and private and nonprofit organizations in identifying, documenting, preserving, researching, evaluating, and interpreting African-American burial grounds.
Engage in consultation and public engagement with descendant, local, and other communities historically associated with identified burial grounds by geography, genetics, or culture.
In accordance with section 307103, provide technical assistance and support to ensure that the locations of unmarked and otherwise unrecorded African-American burial grounds are documented.
Make the information documented under paragraph (4) available in a public database, except in circumstances in which the Secretary determines that the privacy and safety of the burial ground warrants the information being protected.
Develop a program to train States, units of local government, regional governmental bodies, organizations, educational institutions, and private entities to carry out the purposes of this chapter.
Produce and disseminate appropriate educational and training materials (such as handbooks, maps, interpretive guides, or electronic information) relating to—
African-American burial ground identification methods;
best practices for caring for artifacts;
developing interpretive tours and exhibits;
preserving burial ground landscapes; and
heritage tourism initiatives and sources for grants.
Produce and disseminate appropriate educational materials relating to African-American burial grounds through curriculum-based experiences, lesson plans, and primary materials.
Create and adopt an official, uniform symbol or device for the Network; and
issue regulations for the use of the symbol or device adopted under subparagraph (A).
The Secretary may accept monetary donations to further the purposes of this chapter.
Consent of private property owner required
Burial grounds shall only be considered for addition to the Network—
with the consent of the property owner; and
at the request of an individual, landowner, private or nonprofit organization, State or local government, or other entity.
Authority to make grants
The Secretary may make grants to other Federal agencies, State, local, and Tribal governments, other public entities, educational institutions, and private nonprofit organizations in accordance with this chapter for—
the identification of African-American burial grounds that may qualify for the Network;
the preservation and restoration of African-American burial grounds that have been included in the Network;
the interpretation of African-American burial grounds; and
the conduct of related research and documentation for African-American burial grounds that have been included in the Network.
Cooperative agreements and memoranda of understanding
The Secretary may enter into cooperative agreements and memoranda of understanding with, and provide technical assistance to, the heads of other Federal agencies, States, units of local government, Tribal governments, regional governmental bodies, organizations, educational institutions, and private entities—
to achieve the purposes of this chapter; and
to ensure effective coordination of the Federal elements and non-Federal elements of the Network described in section 308602 with System units and programs of the Service.
Private property protection
Nothing in this chapter—
authorizes the Secretary to require or affect the management or use of private property without the written consent of the owner of the private property; or
prohibits the Secretary from providing land management guidance or requirements relating to private property as a condition of a grant or other assistance provided to the owner of the private property under this chapter.
The table of chapters for title 54, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to chapter 3085 the following: