Tlaib, Kamlager-Dove Introduce Resolution on Juneteenth to Honor, Preserve, and Invest in Freedmen’s Settlements

DETROIT — Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) and Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) introduced a resolution to honor, preserve, and invest in former Freedmen’s Settlements—communities established by freed enslaved African Americans following the abolition of slavery. Over 1,200 Freedmen’s Settlements and Black towns were established throughout the South and across the nation before and after emancipation to create safer, self-sustaining, and thriving communities away from racial violence and economic discrimination.

“Freedmen’s Settlements, in many ways, tell the African American story: gaining freedom after breaking the shackles of slavery, yet never fully escaping the institution of racism, from failed Reconstruction and the false promises of the Freedmen’s Bureau to Jim Crow Laws, economic and housing discrimination through redlining, and environmental racism. Despite this, African Americans have persevered: Freedmen’s Settlements represent Black resiliency, Black hope, and Black excellence,” said Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove. “As we celebrate freedom on Juneteenth, we are reminded that we must continually build towards a just future. That’s why I am proud to introduce this resolution—those whose enslaved labor built the infrastructure of this nation should have access to clean drinking water, education, and other basic resources. We must begin to right the wrongs of the past by celebrating and uplifting these communities.”

“Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, and a reminder of the work that lies before us as we continue to fight to preserve Black history and deliver true equity and justice for Black Americans,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “I am proud to introduce this resolution with Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove to honor and preserve the Freedmen Settlements like Idlewild in Michigan—where free and formerly enslaved African Americans built their lives.”

“In our outreach work, we have heard from dozens of inhabitants of former Freedmen’s Settlements and the stories have an all-too-common pattern, with too few exceptions. Tales of no running water or contaminated water, lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods, exposure to polluting facilities, energy poverty, inundation with disasters with no disaster resilient infrastructure, and more. The good news is that the exceptions are our inspiration and our confidence that with the investment of resources and protections from predatory profiteers, there are communities that have built on inherit ingenuity, brilliance and determination and have thrived! I applaud Representative Kamlager-Dove’s leadership in advancing a resolution that honors Juneteenth by ensuring that the exception will become the norm for these historic communities whose founders’ enslaved labor built the infrastructure of this nation,” said Jacqui Patterson, Founder & Executive Director of The Chisholm Legacy Project.

“At a time when the teaching of Black History is being banned from our nation’s schools and efforts to rectify historic injustice are being quashed, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge the legacy of Freedmen’s Settlements and invest in the communities that have been maliciously neglected. It is an apt tribute to the spirt of Juneteenth and our nation’s ongoing journey toward equity and reconciliation,” said Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League.

“As we commemorate Juneteenth this year, let us not forget the rich history of Freedmen’s Settlements in the U.S. They were places that our ancestors called home and built communities that still exist today. To honor their legacy, we must designate Freedmen’s Settlements as historic communities and greatly invest in these places. Our history is interconnected in all we do today. It is only by acknowledging the difficulties of our nation’s past, we can create a society in which all people—particularly those who face the burdens of structural racism—can participate in a flourishing multiracial democracy, prosper in an equitable economy, and live in thriving communities of opportunity” said Michael McAfee, President and CEO of PolicyLink.

“Freedmen’s Settlements founded by freed slaves offered a space to escape from the horrific trauma of slavery and to own land that was their slice of freedom. Land passed down from generations was intended to leave a legacy of self-pride and independence. It is a legacy,” said Tonnette Byrd, Executive Director of Until Justice.

“There is no better way to honor our ancestors on Juneteenth than by this resolution that uplifts their strength, resilience and culture of cooperative economics and communal struggle. This resolution helps us to remember, repair and reclaim these places, and the cultural foundations that built them to help us all meet our 21st Century environmental, economic and social challenges,” said the Ubuntu Climate Initiative’s Denise Fairchild.

“This is a historic moment which should not be ignored. The failure of Reconstruction and the Freedmen’s Bureau (1865) to help lift our ancestors out of poverty must be corrected. This Resolution and legislation is a promising start,” said AIDIKI’s Dr. Afia Zakiya.

“Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove is to be commended for recognizing that descendants of formerly enslaved men and women continue to struggle daily to maintain the inheritance of hard-earned ancestral lands—lacking since emancipation, from the basic services, such as electricity, water and sewer, and other insurmountable, blatant neglect. Her efforts for a congressional endorsement of a resolution would move Juneteenth beyond another commemorative, celebratory holiday to a long-awaited healing path for America by providing desperately needed financial investments in the protection, preservation and posterity of historical Freedmen’s Settlements. As preservationist supporters of historic Freedmen’s Settlements, including our own Turkey Creek, in Gulfport, Mississippi, we urge all congressional officials to please support this resolution,” said Katherine T. Egland, Program Director and Co-Founder of Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO).

“The cornerstone of our mission is to preserve our culture, landmarks, and legacies. This resolution sheds light on Africatown (the community founded by survivors of the last known slave ship, Clotilda) and the current environmental injustices taking place in that historic community. The resolution brings more awareness, which will help to bring changes to our sacred community,” said Jeremy Ellis, President of the Clotilda Descendants Association

“Historic Black towns and settlements represent freedom. These places represent the authentic proof of life after emancipation and are living examples of the resiliency of the former enslaved. With only a handful left, yes, these places deserve to be preserved as they are part of the American story. If they are not preserved, once they are gone, they are gone and future generations will never know what our ancestors achieved after emancipation,” said Tanya DeBose, a resident of Independence Heights, TX.

“Sandbranch has so much history in it. And we the homeowners who are left would love to one day have clean and running water through our homes. Our ancestors fought for this and here we are, still today, fighting just for clean water,” said Phyllis Gage, a resident of Sandbranch, TX.

The resolution was cosponsored by Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), André Carson (IN-07), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dan Goldman (NY-10), Jonathan L. Jackson (IL-01), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Nikema Williams (GA-05).

The resolution was endorsed by the following organizations: 198 methods; AIDIKI; All Things Africatown; Baltimore Wisdom Project; Bayou City Waterkeeper; Beverly Scott and Associates, LLC; Black Family Summit, Inc.; Black Sustainability, Inc.; blakQuity; Blue Future; Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University; Center for Fair Housing; Center for Liberated Power; The Chisholm Legacy Project; Cleveland Owns; The Climate Reality Project; Clotilda Descendants Association; Deep South Center for Environmental Justice; Earth Ethics, Inc.; E-Choice Insurance Group, Inc.; Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO); Emerald Cities Collaborative; FirstRepair; Giniw Collective; Hesperian Health Guides; IKG Cultural Circles; The Imani Group; M.O.V.E. Gulf Coast Community Development Corporation; Mobile County, AL NAACP; National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA); National Urban League; Natomas Black Parents United; Nature’s Garden for Victory and Peace, Inc.; People’s Health Movement–USA; PolicyLink; Reparation Education Project; Sandbranch Freedmen’s Settlement WSC; Town of Hobson City; Trans Empowerment Project; Ubuntu Climate Initiative; Until Justice Corporation; Upright Consulting Services; Visualize Everyone That Serves (VETS); WeAct for Environmental Justice (WeACT); Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network.

Full text of the resolution can be found here.

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