Federal Legislation Establishing the 400 Years of African-American History Commission

Federal Legislation Establishing the 400th was introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia. Read the full statement here.

May 1, 2017 Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1242, the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act, which was introduced earlier this year by Senators Tim KaineMark WarnerRoy Blunt, and Cory Booker. I was proud to introduce the House version, which has the support of Representatives TAYLOR, RICHMOND, WITTMAN, BEYER, MCEACHIN, LEWIS, COMSTOCK, CONNOLLY, GRIFFITH, GOODLATTE, and many others.

   I would like to thank Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Cummings, Mr. Comer, and Mr. Connolly for their assistance in bringing the bill to the floor today.

   This bill would establish a commission to begin the planning of programs and activities across our Nation to recognize the contributions of African Americans since their first arrival as African slaves in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619, almost 400 years ago.

   Slavery was an abhorrent institution, but the history of Virginia and our Nation cannot be fully understood without first recognizing the role played by the slave trade. This institution was the foundation of the colonial and early American agricultural system. The 20 slaves who arrived at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia, in 1619 were the first on record to be forcibly settled as involuntary laborers in the English colonies.

   This bill will establish a commission to recognize and highlight the resilience and contributions of African Americans since 1619. From enduring slavery to fighting in the Civil War, to working against the oppressive Jim Crow laws, to struggling through the civil rights movement, the rich history of African Americans in the United States and their contributions to our Nation began hundreds of years ago. Obviously, this history does not end there.

   The commission established by this bill will be charged with the important task of planning, developing, and implementing a series of programs and activities throughout 2019 to tell the full story of African Americans over the last 400 years. This 15-member commission will include historical experts instead of politicians. Therefore, the true legacy of African Americans will be truthfully told.

   It would be a great disservice not only to African Americans, but to all Americans, if we fail to appropriately recognize this important milestone in our Nation’s history.

   Mr. Speaker, I again thank the chairman and ranking member of the committee, Mr. Comer and Mr. Connolly, for their leadership in bringing this bill to the floor.

   I urge my colleagues to support this bill.