Press Room

July 19, 2013

Liberty Fund DC to consult on placement of African American Revolutionary War Memorial 

Five of 43 sites under consideration at upcoming session of U.S. Interior Department panel

Alexandria, VA — The National Mall Liberty Fund DC announced today the first step in the grueling process of winning a prominent site in Washington, DC to construct a memorial to tens of thousands of unsung African Americans of the Revolutionary War.  Either the Secretary of the Interior or Administrator of the General Services Administration will make the final decision on the advice of the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission.  The Commission meets on July 23, 2013, at 1:00 PM, at the offices of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, National Building Museum.

The fund studied 43 sites and selected five for initial consideration.  Freedom Plaza and the west side of the Jamie L. Whitten Building on the Mall (U.S. Department of Agriculture) show special promise.  The designers, Franck & Lohsen Architects, however, cautioned far more study is required.  “Before a site is selected, we will undertake an environmental assessment, prepare alternative designs and speak with the stakeholders, including the District of Columbia and business and civic leaders,” Michael Franck said.

Perhaps as many as 10,000 African Americans served in the war as soldiers, sailors and marines.  Tens of thousands of others performed patriotic acts, including fleeing plantations for liberty.  “Today, more and more descendants are discovering new resources to trace their heritage and celebrate this untapped birthright,” said Maurice A. Barboza, founder.  “Whatever we do will accelerate even more discoveries.”  Merry Ann T. Wright, president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution, wrote this to Congress in December: “They deserve special recognition in order to help better educate our country.”

“Site Selection,” said Michael Curtis, site and design chair, “is critical to telling the story.  We created nearly two dozen criteria to identify promising sites.  Paramount among them is proximity or sightlines to the Washington Monument and Revolutionary War era landmarks.  These connections will empower the designers to integrate the principles championed by African Americans over ten generations into the fabric of the nation’s capital.”

“Liberty Fund DC has not yet eliminated any sites,” Art Lohsen said.  “We also will seek advice on at least three others.”  Mr. Lohsen continued, “sites were examined on multiple levels.  Besides objective scoring, the team assessed the emotional reactions of observers and the number of sightlines connected to relevant social, political, military and civil rights history.”

“We need to get this right for posterity,” Mr. Barboza said.  “We also have a duty to keep faith with our sponsors and volunteers over four congresses, beginning in 2005.” The National Liberty Memorial Act was incorporated into the 2013 defense spending bill by Senators Joseph Lieberman, Charles Grassley, John Kerry (Ret’d) and Chris Coons.  Former Senator Daniel Akaka and Reps. G.K. Butterfield, Frank Wolf, Edward Markey (now Senator), and William Keating also backed the amendment.  President Barack Obama signed Public Law 112-239 on January 2.  All funds must be raised from private sources and the design approved before 2020.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said he will support the memorial with the same dedication as his now-retired Connecticut colleagues, Senators Lieberman and Chris Dodd.  “We know the names of at least 800 patriots from our state.  We want to share the pride of Connecticut’s history with the nation and this is a great opportunity for us to do so.”

A comprehensive version of the Site Selection Report containing nearly 150 slides may already be available at the website of the National Park Service.

June 17, 2013

Liberty Fund DC says 238th anniversary of iconic Battle of Bunker Hillis worth remembering for African Americans and every citizen

Group pegged by Congress to stir the nation to memorialize African Americans in the Revolutionary War says over 100 blacks volunteered, including hero Salem Poor

Alexandria, VA – National Mall Liberty Fund DC (LFDC) today joins the commonwealth of Massachusetts, officials and scores of communities around the state in commemorating the 238th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill.  Long after the speeches and parades of Charlestown, the nation should remember that thousands of soldiers of the Revolutionary War hailed from small towns between Wellfleet and Great Barrington.  They were a diverse lot.

“Bunker Hill is neither a relic nor a cliché for patriotism on steroids; it is perpetual kindling that still fires the nation’s principles and still has a lesson to teach,” said Maurice Barboza, founder of LFDC.  “It would do us good to consider whether any American still believes Bunker Hill is defined by one race, one color or one concept of freedom.  Such misperceptions are damaging to our democracy and our maturation as a people.”

About 1,200 Americans came to defend the hills around Boston, from June 13 to June 17, 1775.  Among them were over 100 African Americans.  Many were free.  The fate of others was in the hands of compatriots they stood beside in battle.  All believed Bunker Hill and future fights would demonstrate their worthiness for citizenship and true liberty.

Research funded by the National Park Service in 2004 offers insights into who was there and what they did.  Salem Poor certainly was there.  Fourteen officers singled out the Andover resident for special praise.  Poor was pronounced a hero.  However, he has long stood in the shadows of Crispus Attucks — the black patriot most associated with the Revolutionary War although he died before the opening volleys.

Historian George Quintal, Jr. says that Poor and his black compatriots represent 52 different towns.  LFDC is sharing the identities of forgotten patriots with hundreds of communities, from Maine to Louisiana.  Over 70 have approved resolutions honoring them.  Some have added their names to local memorials and incomplete town records.  Newspapers, officials, descendants and historians are contributing to the dialogue and research.

Philip Abbot and Caesar Bason were killed at Bunker Hill.  Cuff Whittemore, Jamaica James, Prince Estabrook and Prince Johonnot were wounded.  Cato Freeman and Barzillai Lew, among others, would sustain the enthusiasm for liberty throughout the war. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 released Freeman from bondage.  Lew and others left behind scores of living descendants.  “Holidays like June 17 inspire discovery,” Barboza concluded.

December 18, 2012

Liberty Fund DC asks seven counties in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District to honor local African American Revolutionary War Patriots as Congress considers a future National Liberty Memorial

While urging House leaders to retain an amendment added by the Senate to the defense spending bill, supporters are asking Culpeper, Hanover, Henrico, Louisa, Orange, Rappahannock, and Spotsylvania counties to tell their uplifting stories.  

Alexandria, VA – Lawmakers in Washington will wrap up the conference today on the mammoth national defense spending bill.  Once negotiators reconcile the differences between the two bills, the House and Senate are expected to approve the conference report.

A tiny section of the bill, Title XIX, which involves no federal funding, is an amendment sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (CT) and Charles Grassley (IA) that could fortify the telling of Virginia’s history.  The provision would authorize a national memorial and bring out of the closet the stories of thousands of African American patriots who fought for independence and freedom during the Revolutionary War.

Sponsors do not want the House to strip the memorial provision from the bill.  Liberty Fund DC has asked  Culpeper, Hanover, Henrico, Louisa, Orange, Rappahannock, and Spotsylvania counties to speak up for their history by approving resolutions honoring local patriots.  Sixty-two patriots have connections to nine counties in the district.  Although he is not a conferee, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor represents the district.

Chesterfield and Goochland counties adopted resolutions in 2006 modeled after one approved by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACO).  These urge the Virginia Congressional Delegation to “spread knowledge of the history while promoting its potential for understanding and unity throughout the nation.”  No fewer than 596 African American patriots served from Virginia. Three hundred ninety-six of them are connected by birth, enlistment, marriage, death, or a pension application to 78 counties in the state.

Virginia Reps. Rob Wittman (1st), Scott Rigell (2nd), and J. Randy Forbes (4th) represent the homes of 219 patriots or more than half of the state’s patriots traceable to a community.  Liberty Fund DC founder Maurice Barboza said, “The history of the 7th Congressional District underlines the significance because it is represented by the second highest-ranking House member.”

Of the 62 members of the House military panel among the possible conferees, 39 represent states once the homes of nearly 5,000 known African American Revolutionary War patriots.  Sen. Lieberman, Sen. Grassley and other advocates sent a joint letter recently asking the House and Senate chairs to retain the amendment: “We will broaden all Americans’ understanding of the diversity of the patriots who helped to secure our independence.” Signers include Rep. Frank Wolf (VA), Rep. Edward Markey (MA), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC), Rep. William Keating (MA), Sen. John Kerry (MA), Sen. Christopher Coons (DE), and Sen. Daniel Akaka (HI).

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), whose members must prove descent from a Revolutionary War patriot, also strongly endorsed the memorial. Liberty Fund DC projects that the Virginia patriots could have in the range of 90,000 to 250,000 descendants.  “The nation will be gratified by the delight of citizens who discover ancestors or are inspired by the history to do good deeds.  This will accelerate discoveries and correct misperceptions that are the legacy of slavery,” Barboza forecasts.

The entirely citizen-funded memorial could stand in Washington’s monumental core near the Mall.  The Secretary of the Interior and multiple federal agencies will consider the specific location.

October 30, 2012

Memorial founder praises George Allen and Tim Kaine and other officials for endorsing the National Liberty Memorial and promoting bipartisan cooperation to honor the struggle for liberty of African Americans of the Revolutionary War

600 African American soldiers and countless patriots and freedom seekers from Virginia may have descendants in the tens of thousands, here, and in every state. 

Alexandria, VA — Maurice A. Barboza, founder of a national memorial project said that the actions of former Sen. George Allen and former Gov. Tim Kaine cause Americans to consider how the deeds of African Americans of 1776 are at the root of principles that define our national character and bind us together as a people.

Barboza is hopeful that the example of these leaders, and others, will convince Chairman Doc Hastings, Natural Resources panel, to send the National Liberty Memorial Act, H.R. 2181, to the full House for approval before the lame duck Congress adjourns.

The National Liberty Memorial will honor African Americans who fought for Independence and built families and institutions that over generations transformed the Constitution, as well as hearts and minds, by demonstrating the true meaning of the struggle for liberty in their enduring affection for principles and their fellow Americans.

Four congresses ago, Sen. Allen talked up the history with his colleagues and joined Sens. Chris Dodd and Charles Grassley as a cosponsor of a predecessor bill, now S. 883.  Gov.  Kaine’s endorsement forecasts the memorial’s potential as a unifying force, “This memorial will serve as a catalyst in our continuing discussion as we move Virginia forward together.”

There also was praise for Mayor Bill Euille (Alexandria), Chairman Corey Stewart (Prince William County), Chairman Sharon Bulova (Fairfax County), Mayor Vincent Gray (Washington, D.C.) and  Councilwoman Yvette Alexander (Washington, D.C.) for promoting the memorial and the deeds of local patriots.

The memorial bill was introduced in the 112th Congress by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sen. Grassley, the late Rep. Donald Payne and Rep. Frank Wolf.  The Senate bill has been cleared for floor action; approval is expected during the lame duck session.

At this late date, the House may never have an opportunity to vote.  Barboza, however, is encouraged by Ranking Member Edward Markey (Massachusetts) and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (North Carolina) who have asked the committee leadership to consider the bill.

Sen. John Kerry (Massachusetts) recently joined his colleagues, Reps. Barney Frank and Bill Keating, as an advocate of his state’s patriots.  Barboza said, “Prompt approval depends on the passion the delegations of Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island can muster.”  More than 70 percent of the 5,000 patriots were from over 300 communities in these states.

In 2008, the Council of the District of Columbia honored the origins of the memorial project and its own significant role in bringing about the conditions that led to the identification of thousands of African American patriots and their hometowns.

So far, 60 communities, governors and legislatures, including Alexandria, Prince William County and Fairfax County, have honored their local patriots and called on Congress to act.

January 17, 2012

Utah Congressman and parks subcommittee chairman asked to consider the merits of liberty memorial bill next month

Hearing sought on legislation that honors the genealogy and history of African Americans who fought for independence during the Revolutionary War, including at least two who began an historic journey in the 1840s that led eventually to Utah

Washington, DC – A group seeking a national monument in Washington today asked Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the House national parks panel, to consider  a hearing on the merits of the National Liberty Memorial Act, H.R. 2181, in February during African American History Month.

This bill would set aside federal land near the Mall in Washington for a memorial to thousands of free and enslaved men and women who fought for independence during the Revolutionary War.  The project is entirely citizen funded.

“They acted selflessly knowing that liberty would elude their descendants for generations,” said Maurice Barboza, founder of Liberty Fund DC.  He told Rep. Bishop that the story “inspires citizens of all backgrounds, particularly those who have struggled for acceptance, to work together to preserve America’s hard-won liberties.”

As many as 10,000 African Americans participated in the Revolutionary War, including Cato Mead and Cato Treadwell.  Together with younger African Americans, these old soldiers who were seeking freer lives accompanied Connecticut Mormons to Nauvoo, Illinois and Montrose, Iowa in the 1840s.  Many sojourners eventually reached what would become the state of Utah.

The project has the backing of a bipartisan group of senior Congressional leaders, including Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA).  A companion bill, S. 883, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), was ordered reported to the full Senate in November 2011.

So far, 50 communities and the state of Connecticut have honored thousands of local African American patriots and called for action on the memorial legislation.  Typical of them is the  resolution of Marietta, Ohio that acknowledges known descendants who still reside in the state. Local officials forwarded copies to Rep. Bill Johnson, a member of the parks subcommittee, and House Speaker John Boehner.

“The interest shown by Rep. Bishop, and leaders of both parties, during the previous three congresses should encourage supporters that the bill will finally pass the House,” said Barboza.

September 8, 2011

Group seeking national monument to Revolutionary War era’s African Americans looks to New England hometowns to tell the story of their struggle for liberty, from Lexington to Yakima

 The deeds of black soldiers and sailors from 274 communities and 15 congressional districts show how the relentless pursuit of democratic principles guides the American spirit 

Alexandria, VA– A group seeking a national memorial is taking a novel approach:  they are asking the hometowns of unsung African American Revolutionary war patriots to tell the story to Congress and citizens across the United States.

“We’re looking to give them a rebirth in the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere,” says Maurice Barboza, a 30-year advocate and founder of National Mall Liberty Fund DC.

As many as 10,000 African Americans could have served in the Revolutionary War.  The names of 5,000 are now known.  Nearly 4,000 are associated with a municipality.  Massachusetts and Connecticut share a high concentration with 2,390 patriots combined.  These men could have between 1 million and 5 million descendants across America, from Lexington to Yakima.

In May 2011, Liberty Fund DC shared the names of 1,736 black soldiers and sailors with town councils and boards of selectmen in 274 municipalities associated with a patriot.  These comprise all 15 congressional districts and 19 counties in both states.

Officials were asked to honor the patriots and voice support for the entirely citizen-funded National Liberty Memorial planned for Washington.  So far, 13 communities in Massachusetts and 15 in Connecticut have approved resolutions.

These resolutions urge the states’ delegations “to work for the enactment of the National Liberty Memorial Act and spread knowledge of the history…while promoting its potential for understanding and unity throughout the nation.”  

Memories still are visible in the fabric of these communities.  New memorials, plaques, and commemorative events are allowing us to see them clearer.  Some descendants still reside nearby.  Among them are a former Connecticut mayor and a Massachusetts woman with multiple ancestors.

“The enthusiasm for the history, frankly, surprised me,” Barboza remarked.  Two dozen articles have appeared in local papers.  “The rest of the nation could learn something about the American  spirit from what local officials and historians are saying.”  (Some are quoted at Twitter.)

The bipartisan National Liberty Memorial Act, S. 883 and H.R. 2181, is awaiting action in the Senate Energy Committee and House Natural Resources Committee.  Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sen. Charles Grassley, Rep. Donald Payne and Rep. Frank Wolf are optimistic that the 112th Congress will approve their legislation.

The memorial would honor the actions of men, women and children – free persons and slaves.  Whether soldier, sailor, slave laborer, freedom petitioner, or one of tens of thousands who ran away to freedom, African Americans of the era laid the cornerstone of a 235-year quest for democratic principles that benefits every citizen.

The General Assembly of Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy, 18 counties in Virginia and the city of Alexandria, the Governor’s Office of Virginia and the city of New Orleans also have voiced formal support for the National Liberty Memorial.

“This is a deliberative process; communities first evaluate the research with staff and local historians,” Barboza explained.  “We’re confident of full support in Massachusetts and Connecticut when the project is launched in the remaining 13 states.”

These charts show the number of African American soldiers and sailors with hometowns in each congressional district and the names of communities that have approved resolutions.   Members of Congress may cosponsor S. 883 or H.R. 2181 by calling the contacts below.

May 24, 2008

Liberty Fund DC honors Cato Meed — a black Revolutionary War son of Connecticut and Iowa

Alexandria, VA — Cato Meed is among 5,500 forgotten Revolutionary War soldiers identified in new research that settles a black woman’s 24-year-old discrimination claim against Daughters of the American Revolution as Congress considers memorializing them on the Mall. Maurice A. Barboza, founder and CEO of National Mall Liberty Fund D.C., released this statement today:

 On behalf of National Mall Liberty Fund D.C., congratulations to the Montrose Riverfront, Inc. and the citizens of Montrose and Lee County, Iowa for honoring Cato Meed. By memorializing his contributions to liberty and independence, you remind Americans of how thousands of forgotten black soldiers and patriots came together in 1776 with their diverse compatriots to make this one nation out of the flocks of every continent.

 The history of the American Revolution is still being written and, therefore, still unfolding 225 years later. We thank those who traveled back in time to tell us what really happened. We salute them as we honor Cato Meed. They are expanding the nation’s opportunities to unite around our common heritage. Barbara MacLeish, who discovered Cato’s lost identity, along with Mary Sue Chatfield, Helen Fowler, Catherine Camfield, Linda Hayes and their colleagues have made his ceremonial resting place a national treasure and the promise of a stronger democracy.

Iowa and Iowans hold a special place in my heart. In 1985, Senator Charles Grassley became an original cosponsor of legislation that eventually set aside land on the National Mall to honor Cato Meed and thousands of his black compatriots. This predated the discovery of his color and his resting place. Even after 20 years had elapsed without construction of the memorial, Senator Grassley was unwilling to let their memories expire. He and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut proposed that Liberty Fund D.C. be authorized to resurrect the project. Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey and the entire Congressional Black Caucus became partners in the House of Representatives.

Hopefully, the names Cato Meed and Montrose, Iowa will ring resoundingly this Memorial Day. This will tell the leaders of the House and Senate committees that the nation wants them to release the bipartisan National Liberty Memorial Act for passage before the Fourth of July. (Bill numbers: S. 1051 and H.R. 1693)

July 24, 2006

Scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Gary B. Nash urge U.S. Senate to pass bill to authorize memorial on the National Mall to blacks in Revolutionary War 

Federal Panel Recommends Site Between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument

Alexandria, VA – Two prolific authors and powerhouses of academia, Harvard Humanities professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and UCLA History Professor Gary B. Nash, have teamed up to urge the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to create the National Liberty Memorial on the National Mall before the 109th Congress adjourns in October.

The memorial would honor the more than 5,000 African Americans who served as soldiers, sailors and spies in the Revolutionary war as well as those who sought liberty by filing petitions and law suits and running away from slavery. Introduced in April by Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, the legislation, S. 2495, has the support of a bipartisan base of Senators including Charles Grassley, Robert Byrd, Barack Obama, George Allen, Elizabeth Dole and Lincoln Chafee.

Professors Gates and Nash recently told Senate president Pro Tem Ted Stevens that this legislation “encapsulates dreams and intentions spanning more than 200 years to honor in some fitting way the contributions of slaves and free persons to the struggle for liberty during the Revolutionary war era.”

“The nation’s Mall will never be a ‘completed work of art’ until this memorial takes its place across from a memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence. There, it will redefine how most Americans perceive the nation’s birth, ‘all men are created equal,’ and our future as one nation based upon enduring principles, instead of color and race.”

Recently inducted into the National Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), Dr. Gates has announced that he has teamed up with the organization to identify black descendants like himself whose lineage can be traced to the Revolution. Dr. Gates discovered his Revolutionary war ancestor, a black man from Virginia, while filming his PBS series, “African American Lives.”

Dr. Nash is the author of over a dozen books that reveal the inspiring role of blacks and Indians during the Revolutionary war era, including the “Forgotten Fifth” and the “Unknown American Revolution.”

The National Liberty Memorial will be located on the lake at Constitution Gardens between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The project is being spearheaded by National Mall Liberty Fund D.C.. The group was given a boost on June 27, 2006, when the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission voted to favorably recommend the Mall site to Congress.

The memorial is the idea of Maurice A. Barboza, of Virginia, who discovered a Revolutionary war ancestor in his Connecticut roots. A member of the SAR since 1980, he saw the need to educate America about this forgotten history after his aunt, Lena Santos Ferguson, a black woman, was denied membership in the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in the mid-1980s.

Now deceased, Mrs. Ferguson’s 1984 settlement agreement with the DAR required the group to research all black soldiers and patriots of the Revolutionary war. In 2001, after 17 years, the group fell far short, publishing a list of some 2,000 names.

Mr. Barboza, founder and CEO of Liberty Fund D.C. said, “we are optimistic that the Congress will pass this legislation before the projected October adjournment. We have ambitious plans to complete the memorial by July 4th 2010.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Witness for National Liberty Memorial to tell Federal panel how future president and slave holder John Tyler helped her Revolutionary War ancestor, a neighbor and free person, obtain a pension

Liberty Fund D.C. will ask the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission on June 27 to preserve land between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument to honor slaves and free persons who served in the Revolutionary war

Washington, DC – National Mall Liberty Fund D.C. announced today that Dr. Marion Lane of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a descendant of Isaac Brown, a fourth generation free person of African descent of Charles City, Virginia, will testify, along with others, before the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission on June 27, 2006, in support of S. 2495, a bill to preserve land at Constitution Gardens for a memorial to the thousands of African Americans who served in the Revolutionary war, including her ancestor.

By 1829 at the age of 69, Mr. Brown had been denied his pension on multiple occasions until future president John Tyler interceded. In a letter to officials, President Tyler said that Isaac Brown was his immediate neighbor and that he and his wife were in poor health and unable to tend to their farm. President Tyler was a slave holder vehemently opposed to abolition; yet he reminded the government of the debt it owed to Mr. Brown for his contributions in the Revolutionary war. When the pension finally was issued, there was a notation on it that says, “send a copy to John Tyler.”

Legislation authorizing the National Liberty Memorial was introduced by Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut on April 3, 2006, and Senators Charles Grassley, Robert Byrd, Barack Obama, George Allen, Elizabeth Dole and Lincoln Chafee. Other witnesses include the chairman of a special committee of the Sons of the American Revolution charged with increasing minority membership; the Past Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite Masons; and the founder and chairman of Liberty Fund D.C..

Hearing Details

The meeting of the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission will be held at 1:30 p.m., on Tuesday, June 27, 2006, at the National Building Museum, Room 312, 401 F Streets, NW., Washington, DC. The Commission is composed of the Director, National Park Service; Chairman, National Capital Planning Commission; Architect of the Capitol; Chairman, American Battle Monuments Commission; Chairman, Commission of Fine Arts; Mayor of the District of Columbia; Administrator, General Services Administration; and Secretary of Defense.

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