Bibb Speaks at African Burial Ground Ceremony
As prepared for delivery
David L. Bibb
U.S. General Services Administration
African Burial Ground Designated National Monument
New York, NY
February 28, 2006
Thank you very much, Eileen (Long-Chelales).
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a distinct honor to represent the U.S. General Services Administration and the Bush Administration today as we celebrate another critical milestone in the history - and continuing evolution - of the African Burial Ground.
And thank you, Secretary (Gale) Norton, for the fantastic news you’ve brought from Washington and President Bush.
It is entirely fitting for the African Burial Ground to be officially recognized as one of our nation’s most significant historic treasures. This designation ensures that all who visit the site - now and in the future - understand the many contributions that enslaved African men, women and children made to the economy, development and culture of Colonial America.
We have indeed come a very long way since 1991, when this site was discovered during pre-construction work for a new federal building here in New York.
And what a journey it has been.
Think of all that we’ve learned.
Careful study of the clothing, sacred remains of those buried here long ago, and artifacts from the burial ground has produced details about the living conditions, countries of origin, and traditions of these early African Americans. These men, women and children were forced into service, not allowed to benefit from their labors, and often worked to death. In a sense, they have returned as our teachers. They taught us how they lived and died, about their native countries, about the contributions they made and the traditions they brought to America. In so doing, they corrected the history books that had ignored their important role at the dawn of our nation.
Think also of all that’s been accomplished since this project began …
- The dignified reinterment of the remains in October 2003 during a sacred, six-day homecoming that began in Washington and ended where we gather today;
- The scientific and historical studies performed by Howard University and others;
- Completion of the archaeology report;
- The first steps in constructing an exterior memorial;
- The selection of the Schomburg Center as a repository for burial ground project archives;
- And relocation of the Office of Public Education and interpretation to space more accessible to the public.
I am very proud of the work GSA has done to help the African Burial Ground assume its place among the world’s historic treasures.
Of course it took the hard work of many people, federal, state, and local agencies, academic institutions and civic organizations to get to the point that we’ve reached today. Their dedication and diligence can be traced to all that this site represents to our nation and to the world. The circle of support certainly includes the Bush Administration and the Congress, which have provided firm direction and the financial support needed for success.
It also includes:
- Howard University;
- The Army Corps of Engineers;
- The Schomberg Center;
- The descendent community;
- The U.S. Interior Department and National Park Service;
- Congressman Charlie Rangel;
- The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation;
- The New York Historic Preservation Office;
- And the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission.
- And many, many others.
The African Burial Ground belongs to the people. GSA will continue to work with our partners to move the project toward completion and the day when it can be experienced by this generation and all the generations that will follow.
Today we move a step closer to that ideal.
Today we celebrate not only what’s been accomplished, but a concrete recognition of the burial ground’s importance to our collective history as a nation.
I’m excited by all that’s been achieved and all that we can look forward to as work proceeds on the exterior memorial, the interpretive center and on other projects that will further enrich the experience for all visitors.
Thank you very much.