July 5, 2016
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4539. The 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act was introduced earlier in the Senate by Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and I was proud to introduce the House version with the support of Representatives Rigell, Butterfield, Forbes, Beyer, Wittman, Lewis, and many others.

   I would like to thank Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Cummings, and the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Brendan F. Boyle) for their assistance in bringing the bill to the floor today.

   This bill would establish a commission to begin planning programs and activities across the Nation to recognize the many contributions of African Americans since the first arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.

   African Americans have contributed greatly to our Nation, and their achievements deserve to be celebrated. The history of Virginia and our Nation cannot be fully understood without recognizing the role played by the slave trade.

   Slavery was an abhorrent institution; but for hundreds of years, it was the foundation of the colonial and early American agricultural system and was essential to its economic sustainability. The 20 Africans who arrived at Point Comfort, Virginia, in Hampton, Virginia, in 1619 were the first on record to be forcibly settled as involuntary laborers in the English colonies.

   The 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act will be instrumental in recognizing and highlighting the resilience and contributions of African Americans since 1619. From slavery, to fighting in the Civil War, to working against the oppression of Jim Crow segregation, to the civil rights movement, the rich history of African Americans and their contributions to our Nation began hundreds of years ago but obviously does not end there.

   The commission established by this bill will be charged with the important task of planning, developing, and implementing a series of programs and activities throughout 2019 to fully tell the story of African Americans, their contributions, and their resilience over the last 400 years and even earlier, as Africans were brought to North America by the Spanish more than a century earlier.

   The efforts of this 15-member commission, which will include historical experts and not politicians, will ensure that the legacy of those Africans in colonial America, along with other African American leaders whose contributions have helped move our Nation forward, are recognized appropriately.

   It would be a great disservice not only to African Americans but all Americans if we failed to appropriately recognize this important upcoming milestone in our Nation's history.

   Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman, the ranking member, and the gentleman from Pennsylvania for their leadership in this effort. And I urge my colleagues to support the bill.