Alexandria, Virginia (PRWEB) May 11, 2004 -
On the 20th Anniversary of his aunt Lena Santos Ferguson's historic settlement with the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, which barred discrimination by the non-profit group, Maurice A. Barboza, the founder of the Black Revolutionary War Patriots Foundation, told members of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution that his dream of a memorial to black soldiers and freedom seekers "also will illuminate those white patriots who aided, or simply, respected their struggle." Urging the SAR to renew its past participation, Barboza said that some of your ancestors might have supported the struggle for freedom.
ÂWhen I became a member in 1980, no organization had ever welcomed me so sincerely or made me feel so beloved. You measured up to our ancestorsÂ best ideals whether or not they understood them to apply to persons of my color,Â Barboza said. ÂMany Americans may think that all hereditary organizations are alike, stuffy, exclusionary, and full of pomp and circumstance. How wrong they would be to prejudge the SAR. Just as it is wrong to prejudge a black person, it is wrong to prejudge a white person and the spirits on his family tree.Â
Barboza described how he is an 11th generation American through an ancestor who arrived in America from England 10 years after the Mayflower. The son of an immigrant from the Cape Verde Islands, Barboza also is descended from blacks who likely freed themselves before the Emancipation Proclamation. He told his compatriots ÂThere is a fair probability that in the thousands of interconnections of those generations that we are distant cousins to someone in this room.Â
After his aunt had won membership in the NSDAR, ending four years of rejection (1980 - 1984), Barboza and Ferguson, now deceased, formed The Patriots Foundation to erect a memorial near the Washington Monument. The memorial would honor the 5,000 black soldiers and tens of thousands of runaway slaves of the Revolutionary war era. Barboza said, "Whether your forebears were sympathetic to the plight of those forgotten black souls or not, it is your actions that will influence how much respect future citizens muster for the founders, American history, and each other."
Barboza recounted that 12 years ago he had his dream taken away by the Foundation he had created when the group's white board chairman, and black membership, staged a coup. "[From the outside, I did all I could to make the Foundation accountable and bring back integrity to the cause," he said. "Now, they are all mostly gone or about to exit." In solidarity with her nephew, Ferguson resigned from the Foundation and later felt at home in two Washington, D.C. chapters of the NSDAR.
The Patriots Memorial had garnered national support, a site on the Mall, and approval of a preliminary design before Barboza's and Ferguson's departure. Barboza attributes his reentry to Foundation President Rhonda Roberson and the group's new board chairman, Faiger Blackwell. "They have brought integrity back to the project," he said. "They have returned to me the dignity of a Founder. They have welcomed back the memory of my deceased aunt. Slowly, the old supporters are returning."
Barboza said his experience, and his aunt's, with acceptance and rejection for their entire lives, by both blacks and whites, had taught them that all that matters in commerce between people is integrity. "All these years I thought I knew what the memorial was about - it was a memorial to black patriots," Barboza said. "Now, I know it is a memorial about integrity. "The Sons of the American Revolution has integrity, and those black patriots are America's best example of integrity and patriotism."
As part of her settlement with the NSDAR, the group was required to identify every black soldier who served in the American Revolution. However, it was not until Ferguson was within two years of death did the group finally complete the project - and not to her satisfaction. For years Ferguson, Barboza, and her law firm, Hogan and Hartson, complained about the pace and the results. Barboza said, "the research is incomplete and leaves out many mixed race soldiers. Some had actually sired NSDAR members who were either trying to pass for white or did not know they had black blood."
"The former President GeneralÂ had promised to make Lena whole," Barboza said. My aunt was 52 in 1980 when she first applied for DAR membership. She was about to turn 73 when she received the last booklet in the mail. Still, she was not made whole." Ferguson had initially been rebuffed by a local District of Columbia Chapter but later came to bond with her fellow compatriots, while she continued to press her differences with the National Society. Her husband James Ferguson said, "Lena grew to love her chapter and the women. Even when she was near death, she ordered me to pay her dues and show her the cancelled check."
Concluding his remarks, Barboza said, "I came away with my integrity and fire still intact. I had sold my house and mortgaged my future to move this project along one centimeter at a time. I had always admired the beauty and simplicity in those words of the Declaration of Independence, 'we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.' Now, even after the passage of 12 empty years, there is renewed hope for The Patriots Memorial. And I'm willing to take that pledge all over again."