The Bulletin Board

Measure to protect enslavement-era gravesites of African Americans defeated by House

By: - May 10, 2022 12:13 pm
State House Dome

The House sent Senate Bill 258 to interim study on Thursday. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A legislative effort to protect enslavement-era African American graves was voted down last week.

The House sent Senate Bill 258 to interim study on Thursday in a 180-146 vote without discussion. Ahead of the vote, members of the House Committee on Resources, Recreation, and Development recommended further study on the bill, questioning whether it was necessary and citing other parts of statute they said address this issue. And they took issue with the bill’s mention of a private nonprofit to represent the interests of the “descendant community.”

The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire is named in the bill as a “designated representative” of the African American descendant community, since it might not be possible to find direct descendants. 

A majority of the committee worried that “could give that organization governmental-type control and oversight over all aspects of the processes involved in the discovery, restoration, and/or preservation of relics, gravesites, and the remains of African Americans from the period of enslavement.”

The committee recommended interim study in a 13-8 vote, with the minority of the House panel arguing that the bill was needed to assure “proper recognition and dignity is given to these individuals’ remains.”

The bill had received broad bipartisan support in the Senate, which passed the bill unanimously in February.  

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.

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