National Mall Liberty Fund D.C. Asks Congress to Keep Revolutionary War Freedom-Seekers Memorial Alive Beyond October 27 Deadline

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A new memorial design will be unveiled at 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 28 at libertyfunddc.org to thank Revolutionary war era black patriots for making this 239th Fourth of July celebration possible.

National Mall Liberty Fund D.C. announced today that it will seek the right to build a national memorial to the more than 5,000 black soldiers and tens of thousands of freedom-seekers of the American Revolution.

Legislators, including long-time supporters, have voiced disappointment with the past foundation's lack of accountability, performance, and the numerous extensions since 1994 that have brought the project no closer to construction than it was 13 years ago.

Liberty Fund D.C. said citizens must not allow the U.S. Congress to let the project die when the deadline arrives on October 27, 2005.

A project facilitator, Maurice A. Barboza, said that Liberty Fund D.C.'s meetings on Capitol Hill suggest members of Congress still believe in the memorial's significance but not in the past foundation's capacity to build it. "The new design and Web site (http://www.libertyfunddc.org) offer Americans the inspiration and information they need to fight for the black patriots and show that their cause is still viable."

The legislation to transfer the right to build the memorial to Liberty Fund D.C. will be introduced in July. Bill numbers and sponsors will be announced at the Web site.

Nearly two decades ago, in 1988, lawmakers approved the site at Constitution Gardens between the Lincoln memorial and the Washington Monument. They were able to set aside this hallowed ground only because the memorial qualified as being of "preeminent historical and lasting significance to the nation."

They heard nearly 30 witnesses from organizations and individuals, from the Prince Hall Masons, American Jewish Congress, Daughters of the American Revolution, and National Education, Association to the National Council for Black Child and Family Development. Then Howard University Professor, Dr. Portia Sheilds, representing the NCBCFD on June 13, 1985, said, "Perhaps now, as experts grapple for ways to relieve this debilitating stress which affects all families, but blacks most, is an opportune time to introduce black family role models -- men, women and children -- who participated in The Revolution."

Now president of Albany State College, Dr. Shield's complete statement of June 13, 1985, before a U.S. House Committee is Liberty Fund D.C.'s "Anniversary Statement of the Month." A psychologist who specializes in the black family, Dr. Sheild's remarks echo true today as they did 20 years ago: "A memorial, however, canonizes the contributions of Blacks in the Revolution and will remain in perpetuity for all parents to share with their children and will motivate teachers to include the roles played by Blacks as well as whites in their lessons."

Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (CT) and former-Senator Albert Gore, Jr. (TN) first introduced the black patriots legislation in 1985. Cosponsors include Senators John W. Warner (VA), Orrin G. Hatch (UT), Chris Dodd (CT), Edward M. Kennedy (MA), Charles E. Grassley (IO), and Rep. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (NY). The project had the support of Presidents Ronald W. Reagan and George H. W. Bush, as well as Senator Strom Thurmond (SC).

"Prompt passage of legislation to authorize Liberty Fund D.C. is critical," Mr. Barboza said. "Just 121 days remain before the memorial will die. With a congressional moratorium in effect that bans future construction on the National Mall, the freedom seekers' memorial could be excluded from land where history overwhelmingly confirms the worthiness of its placement."

Franck Lohsen McCrery, Architects, of Washington, D.C. and New York, in cooperation with Dallas sculptor David Newton, have designed a new memorial that combines freestanding figures and panels of relief sculpture. James McCrery, partner, says it is in keeping with "the dignity of the Lincoln Memorial yet on a scale consistent with existing requirements for this particular site."

"These patriots tell the untold story behind the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Signers Memorial and even the new World War II Memorial," said Mr. McCrery. Those black patriots deserve to be at this site, and they deserve to be honored like all great heroes -- in the classical tradition. Everything they did makes them deserving of a great and timeless memorial."

Michael Withers of CCS, a national construction cost estimating firm headquartered in Chicago, said this design lives up to the outstanding reputations of FLM and Mr. Newton.

The design will be unveiled on Tuesday, June 28, 2005, at 2:00 p.m. at http://www.libertyfunddc.org.

The memorial grew out of a black woman's battle to join the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution between 1980 and 1984. With her law firm, Hogan and Hartson, Lena Santos Ferguson stood up to the DAR and forced the group over 17 years to bar discrimination in membership and identify every black soldier who served in the American Revolution.

Ferguson's nephew, Mr. Barboza, is optimistic: "what Congress needs are assurances that the design is capable of stirring Americans to contribute and the organization heading the campaign is accountable for, and knowledgeable about, the way this future national treasure must be represented - with utmost dignity and integrity." He added, "Already, leaders on Capitol Hill are seeing our point of view."

The Web site is intended to become a national treasure for historians, students and the general public. Every two weeks the names of hundreds of black patriots from each of the original 13 colonies will be listed.

Over 400 black soldiers from Connecticut (http://www.libertyfunddc.org/connecticut.htm)

are listed this week along with, statements, speeches, legislative history, pictures and articles that explain the memorial's future greatness.

There is a story about how one black family discovered their Revolutionary war roots in Mrs. Ferguson's research and were welcomed recently by the Sons of the American Revolution. (http://www.libertyfunddc.org/information5.htm)

On the subject of the identification of the black soldiers and black families embracing their ancestors, former Rep. Peter W. Rodino, Jr. (NJ) told Congress in 1984: "ÂÂ…one day when the monumental task of reviewing the voluminous military service files and pension records kept at the National Archives is undertaken for the purpose of identifying these men, the names of many more black soldiers will become public so that their descendants and fellow Americans may know of them."

"Those remarks of Mr. Rodino, who is Liberty Fund D.C.'s Honor Roll Profile of the Month, proved prophetic after 20 years. Because of Mrs. Ferguson's steadfastness, and the refusal of this project to die from neglect, nearly 2,500 black soldiers have been identified. Black families, as Dr. Sheilds encouraged, are embracing their rightful ownership of American history," Mr. Barboza said.

"Although, we cannot point to a memorial on the Mall, this project has had a continuing impact on real lives, since Rep. Johnson and Senator Gore introduced the concept to their colleagues over 20 years ago."

About National Mall Liberty Fund D.C.

National Mall Liberty Fund D.C. is a non-profit organization incorporated in Washington, D.C.. We are a team of volunteer professionals with extensive experience in fundraising, public accountability, non-profit management, communications, congressional relations, sculpture, and architecture:

http://www.libertyfunddc.org/aboutus2.htm

Media Contact:

Maurice Barboza

703-299-0408

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