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Monument To Blacks Has Backing In Congress

April 11, 2007 by  
Filed under News

Revolutionary War Role Would Be Recognized

( WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Connecticut native’s decades-long fight for a monument to the thousands of black soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War took an important step forward recently when U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd and other lawmakers introduced legislation that would let it be on the National Mall.

The bill was introduced shortly before Congress’ most recent recess, and when lawmakers return, it will be taken up by committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives, said a spokesman for Dodd.

Getting a monument to the black soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War has been a mission for Maurice Barboza for more than 20 years. The Plainville native got started on the project after learning he was descended from a man who fought in the war. After doing research, Barboza found that many blacks had served in the conflict, and scholars now think there were at least 5,000 black soldiers in the war.

A spot has been reserved on the Mall for the monument since 1988. But it was given to a group that no longer exists and could not raise enough money for the project. Barboza was involved with that group but fell out with them. Once the group became defunct, he started a new organization and lobbied Dodd to introduce legislation that would transfer the land on the Mall to his new group.

“I’m delighted that Dodd has stuck with this project and kept the promise he made to me,” Barboza said on Monday.

Dodd, along with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced the bill in the Senate. An identical one was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, D-New Jersey.

“I’m very optimistic about this,” said Barboza, who lives in Washington. “I’m pleased that we got legislation introduced in both houses and that we have sponsors for that legislation who want to get this done.”

One question still exists about the bureaucratic process – whether the bill must be reviewed by the National Mall Memorial Commission. That group reviews monuments on the Mall and must approve them. The commission reviewed similar legislation that Dodd introduced last year and gave a conditional approval. A member of Dodd’s staff said on Monday it is not clear if that commission will want to review the monument again.

Congress did not act on the legislation Dodd introduced last year because of time constraints. Barboza said he hopes Congress will approve Dodd’s bill by August.


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