The 114th Congress and legislation on slavery, race, and African American history

Posted January 8th, 2015 by
Category: Modern issues, Public History, Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Now that the 114th Congress has convened the first session of its two-year term, it’s time to take stock of the status of legislation related to slavery, race, and African American history. What happened to legislation which was pending before the 113th Congress, and what new legislation has already been proposed in the new session?

What legislation from the 113th Congress has returned?

Let’s start with H.R. 40, the perennial legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in every Congress since the 101st back in 1989. H.R. 40 would establish a commission to study the history of slavery and its legacies, and to make recommendations for appropriate remedies. In the 113th Congress, H.R. 40 was prompted referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where Conyers is the ranking member (and former chair), and then sat in committee, without any further action being taken, from the first day of the Congress in January 2013 until it expired at the end of the session last week.

Rep. Conyers re-introduced H.R. 40 on Tuesday, which means that it is once again pending before Congress. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where it is likely to sit once again.

Incidentally, Rep. Conyers is now the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, having been first elected to Congress in 1964 and having served the people of Michigan continuously since that time. As a result, he is now the “Dean of the House,” and had the ceremonial task of swearing in Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as Speaker on Tuesday.

Another bill which has returned in the 114th Congress is H.Res. 13, a resolution which would recognize and support Black History Month. H.Res. 13, introduced by Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.), was known as H.Res. 481 in the 113th Congress, where it sat in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce for the better part of a year with no action being taken. H.Res. 13 has once again been referred to that committee for further action.

What new bills have been introduced in the 114th Congress?

Three bills related to human trafficking and modern slavery have been introduced before the 114th Congress this week.

Two of these bills refer generally to addressing human trafficking, although their texts are not yet available. H.R. 159, titled “To stop exploitation through trafficking,” was introduced by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.). H.R. 181, entitled “To provide justice for the victims of trafficking,” was introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D.-N.Y.). There is also H.R. 63, offered by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), which would require the Department of Homeland Security to set up a database to coordinate federal law enforcement investigations related to human trafficking

These bills follow in the footsteps of H.R. 4842, which was introduced in the 113th Congress by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the co-sponsor of H.R. 181. H.R. 4842, the “Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014,” would have instructed the SEC to require annual reports from companies on what they are doing to identify and address conditions of slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains. This bill, which had bipartisan cosponsors, was introduced last year and died after languishing in the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

What legislation from the last Congress has not (yet) returned in any form?

Two years ago, on the first day of the 113th Congress, Rep. Conyers introduced H.R. 98, the “John Hope Franklin Tulsa-Greenwood Race Riot Claims Accountability Act of 2013.” H.R. 98 was designed to provide reparations for the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot and their descendants, by extending the statute of limitations for lawsuits. I wrote more extensively about H.R. 98 at that time. Congress took no action on this legislation over the past two years, and it has died without being replaced (yet, at any rate).

Finally, the 113th Congress saw bills introduced in both the House and Senate which would have commemorated the history of our nation’s Buffalo Soldiers. H.R. 520, the “Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act,” was introduced in 2013 and passed in the House later that year. H.R. 520 then moved to the Senate for consideration, where S. 225, a parallel bill, had already been introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). However, these bills were not acted on and so they, too, expired last week.

There are many reasons to explore the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, not least because their history is one of pioneering courage in the face of racism, and which ties together slavery in the South with the history of the West. Next year, 2016, will mark the 150th anniversary of the congressional authorization of all-black Army regiments, which was the beginning of the Buffalo Soldiers. Hopefully Congress will see fit to commemorate its own action, a century and a half later, by passing legislation to mark this extraordinary history.

One Response to “The 114th Congress and legislation on slavery, race, and African American history”

  1. Stella Antley Says:

    James, “Happy New Year” my Brother in the struggle and kudos again on the museum opening and your family’s new book. I do hope you are well, also, as we beed warriors like you to carry the torch and keeping us informed, as you do, through the prestigous “The Tracing” Center.

    I truly enjoyed reading the new Congress’list of legislation, especially Rep. John Conyers, re: Reparation introduced in 1989…OMG its still only a Bill after All these Years…the cost of printing alone could pay all African-Americans their Reparation–40 acres and two Mules!!. I have written to him years ago and called his office but like most Black folk, its all about them, unfortunately. Do you have any rapport with him or any of the members of the 113 Congress in order that I be allowed to testify, regarding HB 40, on behalf of the Slave Holding Me? I ask because of the many veins you have growing out there in Congress, businessess, corporate, private, public, community grass-roots, national and international and I need help in my efforts to get the Connecticut General Assembly’s “Apology for Slavery” more visible and known about which was presented to mne on behalf of the Slave, presented to me By then Senator Toni Harp and is actually how you found ne after reading about the historically significant event. At that time and since then, you and I have had many conversations about the “Apology” and a need to get more interest and knowledge out there about it; however as more time passes less is being done or even discussed, anymore and while I know you are very busy with your many needed projects, James, I, too, need your help and the prestigous long-arms of your Slave Family’s “Roots” to help mne and my “Roots”. Of course, all the months you hosted me on your webpage, until I went on fb, was muuch needed and appreciated but now in 2015, and for black History Month 2015, I need your help in augmenting my efforts to “get out there” and speak across the Country about the Slave and I, and the “Apology” for Slavery. I need financial grant assistance, how to go about becoming a “non-profit”…all things which I know you have already done and can share such knowledge with me….I need help. I am the last of my kind, being held by a Slave, I’m like the last dinosaur, and I don’t have many more years left to get this done…” Speak on behalf of an “Actual” Slave and that is holding me and be allowed to tell her Story…seek her justice…seek her Reparation, obtain a “National Apology,” and “Atonement/contrition” on behalf of All Slaves, in all Slave holding states, from the north to the south, and if thought worthy enough, do it while we have an African-American sitting President, before he leaves office…I feel if beyonce and former drug-dealing Jay-Z, as he admits, can meet him why can’t I?…. I feel my over 25 years in politics, at the Connecticut State Capitol, “I say I brought Her ‘Roots’ from the Cotton Fields to the Connecticut Capotol.” I, also, worked on his campaign…did Jay-Z, I doubt it…does Jay-Z or Beyonce have a Slave holding them..No??!

    My direct bloodline and unbroken lineage to a Slave, entitles me to this….so that She can see through my eyes, the first Black President! Who else can speak before this new Republican controlled Congress on behalf of Slaves, if not me and this isn’t being boistorous or conceited…it is just…a “Black Historical” fact and I cannot keep doing this alone….I need the Black community, clergy, corporate world, Oprah, Al Sharpton, a lawsuit, Black mayors, governors, black People, the Black Congressional Caucus, and You, as always and thanks for your tears of assistance…smiling….to help me down this long, arduous road I have been traveling, alone, for 30 years…..I need people…I. Need You and “The Tracing Center” to help me trace the life of One Slave…the “One Who had a Name, the One Who Got Away..the One Who the Slaves would hold up, as a newborn infant and ask the sage, age old Question…”Is You the One”..James You and I are…”The Ones” and they cannot deny our direct “Roots” to a Slave….she is holding me…You carry your slavemaster’s surname!! They hide behind semantics…”Saying..”In order to sue for or seek Reparation on behalf of a Slave you would have jad to have been one, knew one, adversely impacted by Slavery, etc…”…well, we can, were and are!! Enough talk, marching, begging, we deserve to be heard…I deserve to be heard…my bloodline demands it, rightfully, historically and justly so. And, If not now…When…? Because it’s not just my history its All of our Black History, it’s a Slave with a name, who defied the annals of time and odds by living until 111 years of age and lived long enough to hold me as an infant, along with Five Generations of her daughter’s daughters….truly amazing and rare for any Slave since their babies were taken fron their mother’s bloody arms soon after birth, sold and never to be seen again……this was an Omen, I feel, “poetic justice,” “the Sins of the Father will be Visited upon the Son…I’m that Visit..the DeWolf Family, You are that Visit…we are that reminder that Slavery will not be swept under the rug any longer”…I’m that Karma is a “B_ _ _” I keep hearing so much about, for her, through me, to say, silently from her grave…”I was here,” “I had a Name,it was not my African name” “I was somebody” “I was an African Woman before you stole me during our Diaspora abd the middle passage, my mother was the Daughter of Governor bull, in south Africa””…not just a Slave with a number and a “Bill of Sales” receipt” as my bame as your chattel like cattle..owned by you…. and my Great, Great Granddaughter, whom I’m holding in my arms, is my legacy which you cannot deny, her name is Stella, who will someday grow up and vendicate me, fight for me and seek my atonement, and my forty acres and my mule”. I have spent my lifetime on this sojourney…thank god for the internet as I can now reach more people…like yourself and “the Tracing” Center, people in africa, world renowned Black Historian, Scholar, African Antiquities Archeologist, Scholar of Jewish and Religious Theologian and Reader of the NT, Professor Dr. Sidney Davis (who also found me on the internet, like you), and is helping me and teaching me, all about Africa, he is there now, working with the Team of CARC (Catherine Achholonu research Center) in Nigeria, and founded by world renowned, the late, august Nigerian, and world lecturer on the Igbo Nation of West Africa, Professor Dr.Catherine Archolonu, the first Nigerian woman to receive her Ph.D., and is listed among the prestigous “Who’s Who of the World” among a litany of other humanitarian and African contributions, her bio is at least four pages long if not longer…she was an amazing, accomplished woman… (please read their book “Eden in Sumer on the Niger” discovering 450,000 of lost African History, President Bill Clinton has one of her books (“They Came Before Adam”) and endorsed her studies as “irrefutable evidence that the Black Man is the ‘Original’ Man”..please google them, Dr. Davis hails from Boston and would love to meet and work with you…He is brillant, beyond words, having studied and devoted his entire lifetime as a Religious, History Scholar and he teaches over a thousand people from across the world, including little “ole me…smiling. You will be most impressed by him and him by you. Dr. Davis, like you, has been so very kind to me and he, as busy as He is and intrinsically valuable his time is, he constantly keeps taking the time to reinforce me, augment my cause, offer encouragement, and my “Birth Right”…. By helping me help her. He is an ardent and fervent researcher for all things related to our African “Roots” and our 450,000 of Lost African History both here and in Africa….without him and his words of wisdom, and you, also, of course, I’d be on empty with no inertia, as I was when he found me…he champions my cause, helps me with my postings on fb and is another “Hero” to me..just like you, my friend….we all travel the same road to justice for our African Ancestots

    Who had No Voices….we speak for Them…All of Them!

    I understand that most Black folk are all about themselves and getting theirs…this is the “Willie Lynch” Syndrome (every man for themselves) imbredded within our designed altered “DNA”…we all have our own onuses..just getting through the day, without getting killed or trying to pay our rent and bills….I GET IT…. But we Must, also, Protect our Past and Ancestral History… but there is enough to go around and if we share mire and become a united force with the combined synenergy of one…As a people, We could move mountains instead of kicking peebles.

    James, I have always found you to be a “giver–not a ‘taker'” and a “team player” so I’m beseeching you, as a friend and comrade in the same struggle, and the Dewolf family to offer me and my “Roots” a seat at the table so that I can nring the Slave to Congress on behalf of supporting HB 40 and seeking her Reparation, as case number 001….smiling…..along with your family’s geneology. I do hope you will afford me some of your valuable time during 2015 and

    Also, and most importantly as well, James, please don’t forget the idea I pitched to you, last year, about getting more Natiobal recognition (since Slavery was both a Black and white issue, therefore needs to be remembered by both races….not just African-americans but All Americans) for “Juneteenth” by emulating the Jewish custom, in Israel, to give and pay homage to their Holocaust, by sounding a “Siren” for two-minutes; everyone stops, even in traffic, and for two-minutes they remember their ancestors…and say…””It could Have Been Me and my entire Family”! You loved my suggestion, and ideas; and, said you’d been discussing with your team of to better memoriolize the day our Ancestors were Freed from Slavery, and that you thought my idea was great and would achieve this….You asked me to wait and begin with you,in 2015, getting towns, cities and states across the land to participate….especially churches and schools,(Mayor Toni Harp, the first African-American Mayor of New Haven, the City of the Amistad Memorial and history for the Slaves to seek amnesty and where I was presented the “Apology” for Slavery, would be an ideal city to ring the bells or sound a siren and of course, here, in Connecticut which legislated the “Apology” had Slaves and is the “Constitution” State. I sent you my “white paper” discussion on this, last year and hope you still have. So, it’s 2015, and we have until June to begin this historical.much needed recognition on behalf of those whose nameless, faceless “Blood and Bones” saturate the very soil this Country was built upon and upon their sweat, tears and backs……we Must not fall victims of just Remembering Black History, We must, also, make Black History and I for one am getting a little tired of just seeing our history on the big screen whike white producers get paid mullions off of our Amcestors Misery….now, we get to see SELMA,in living color….I’m happy for Oprah.

    Let me close by, as always, thanking you and wishing you and the DeWolf family continued success. Please call me when you get a moment, between flights, smiling, as we’ve done before…I won’t take much time and please keep feeding us knowledge through “The Tracing Center”… I learn so. Much..!! And, please know I’m available to speak at any Black History Month Celebration, during February, in Rhode Island…maybe at the new museum Your family has helped open…until I get $y own….lol

    Yours in the Struggle, Stella for the Slave Holding Me

    PS: Please disregard the typos, I typed this at 5am, in the dark and on my tiny Blackberry….lol…Ciao

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