December 08, 2021

Bipartisan, Bicameral Group Introduces Legislation to Create National Liberty Memorial, Honor African American Revolutionary War Patriots

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa along with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (IA-1) today introduced legislation to extend authorization of the National Liberty Memorial, a monument to commemorate enslaved and free African Americans who fought in the United States Revolutionary War. The bipartisan National Liberty Memorial Preservation Act (H.R. 6201/S. 3334would allow a nonprofit to continue its important work to construct this memorial near the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“We would not be the country we are today if not for the valiant sacrifices of the free and enslaved Black soldiers who fought for American independence,” Watson Coleman said.“My bill would honor the Black soldiers who are far too often erased from the narrative surrounding our nation’s founding. Black people built this country in more ways than one, and the National Liberty Memorial will help tell their story.”

“As Americans, our understanding of history has a tremendous impact on our sense of who we are and where we’re headed. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the significant contribution that enslaved and free African Americans played in the American Revolution,” Grassley said. “It’s past time we dedicate a memorial to those brave men who volunteered to serve. This monument will be a tangible reminder that, despite the lingering legacy of slavery, the promise of liberty and equality is the shared heritage of all Americans.”

“Thousands of enslaved people and freedmen served in the Revolutionary War, risking their lives for a country that did not recognize them as full citizens. The National Liberty Memorial will commemorate the bravery, distinction, and patriotism of African American soldiers during the American Revolution and ensure that future generations of Americans can honor their sacrifice,” said Murphy. 

“Many Black Americans bravely fought in the Revolutionary War. Their stories should be told, and their contributions should be honored. I am proud to help lead the bipartisan effort in Congress to build the National Liberty Memorial to pay tribute to these patriots and commemorate their sacrifices,” Hinson said.

This summer, Watson Coleman highlighted the contributions of Black soldiers in the American Revolutionary War in a Washington Post OpEd noting that Black and Indigenous "troops represented one-quarter of the fighting strength of George Washington’s Continental Army by the march to victory in Yorktown in 1781. Yet while this fact is well known to historians, if not always highlighted in their work, the larger story of these soldiers is rarely taught in primary school classrooms."

The National Liberty Memorial will be built by National Memorial Liberty Fund D.C., a private nonprofit established to lead the effort to raise donations and construct the memorial.

“With this memorial to seemingly the most powerless of human beings standing on the Mall in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of the United States, it will answer the questions, ‘what won the American Revolution and have its aims reached perfection?’ Their vision and persistent advocacy for a principled version of America prevails in each affirmative act of a citizen and every forgotten deed designated for restoration on July 4, 2026. By the interaction of the memorial's sightlines with everything monumental that preceded it, the barriers to discovery will be lifted and our apathy about what binds us together transformed into purpose. Masters and slaves with different notions about ‘inalienable rights’ will be acknowledged for creating a long-lasting democracy that rejects the notion of one race existing to dominate another,” Maurice Barboza, Founder and CEO of the National Mall Liberty Fund D.C. said.