Dear Speaker Pelosi,
The need for HR 40 is brought home to me by the anniversary of Congressman Elijah Cumming's death coinciding with the Day of Action to pass Reparations AND the recent actions of Norfolk Southern (NS)on the site of Chattahoochee Brick Company (CBC).
If Congressman Cummings were alive he would be saying to Norfolk Southern's CEO "You can't keep skirting the will of the people and going 'Nyah, nyah, nyah;' Once we pass H R 40, this kind of thing will stop."
This kind of thing is described below:
The CBC site is at the confluence of Proctor Creek which runs through Atlanta to empty into the Chattahoochee River. It is also where 1000s of Black men, arrested on false charges and sentenced to forced labor (guards wielding whips because loaded guns exploded from the brick oven heat) disappeared during the 40 years the capital still driving the US economy was created. Super profits of companies employing both convict leased labor and paid labor.defeated competitors employing only the latter. CBC created the primitive capital that grew and merged into Wells Fargo today. NS's record of slave labor is documented elsewhere.
Few families whose sons, brothers, husbands, cousins were sent to CBC ever heard of them again. Community members who grew up and still live around the CBC site believe that many, if not most of the men sent never left; that they were literally worked to death. Worse, they believe that not only were families not notified so the bodies of men who died at the CBC could be retrieved, mourned and properly buried but not even buried there.few who died there were even granted the dignity of burial. CBC Descendants (CBCD) believe the bodies of men who died there were tossed into the brick ovens. Their belief is supported by Douglass Blackmon's Pulitizer Prize SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME and subsequent scholarly investigations. US Steel Corp has admitted archeologists found bodies in the coke ovens of mines operated by convict lease labor in Birmingham.
The CBC site was protected for 3 years by the City of Atlanta in response to pleas by CBCD founder, Donna Yvette Stephens, endorsed by her neighborhood association(NPU G) of which she is a former chair, as is the current president of the Atlanta City Council, Felicia Moore.
Now, however, Norfolk Southern has entered the scene and has a 99 year lease on the site. Stephens, CBCD, and the City Council are informed that NS is exempt from state and local laws. Because? NS is a railroad, and railroads have been miraculously exempted from all but federal law since the 19th century.
Thurs Oct 15, 2020, Stephen's City Councilor sent a letter co-signed by all City Councilors to NS. Fri, Oct 16, 2020, NS replied that they were already on the case to memorialize the site, but/and there were no human remains there. Sat,Oct 17, the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) composed of presidents of all 29 NPUs, passed a strong resolution calling on city, state, AND FEDERAL government to oppose any further action on the site.
Community wide interest in protecting CBC as a "historic and sacred site addressing environmental concerns" [CBCD's mission statement] has mushroomed recently. Many white Atlantans who never supported reparations before, but support CBCD's overlapping interest in Proctor Creek and Chattahoochee R. environmental concerns. Some of us have begun studying the 10 Points of the National African American Reparations Commission prompted by realizing CBC would have and might still be protected by Point 9. And that has begun prying open our hearts and minds to our broader responsibilities, moral duties, and finally honest desire for reparations as foundational to pursuing the real American Dream: that now rare feeling of equality, that "no one is better than me and I am better than no one"*
Support for CBCD's position has also come recently from Atlanta business leaders, perhaps in reaction to Northern Southern's slap in the face of their generous help in winning inducements for NS's headquarters' relocation to the city. The architectural showplace of their new headquarter is under construction.
The CBC property was fenced off a few weeks ago. Community members who previously photographed what they referred to as "tunnels" (where scientific archeological investigation might verify human remains) are not allowed on the site to check their status.
Stephens' has been informed the City's Code Enforcement department has been asked to remove piles of bricks left on the site. Her present urgent priority is to preserve them.
If HR40 were in effect, point 9, stipulations regarding history sites, would have protected the Chattahoochee Brick Company. While NS may not have to respect city law, it must comply with federal law governing the possible desecration of human remains.
Please bring HR 40 to a vote before Nov 3. No one should ever be able to again violate the will of the people and go 'Nyah, nyah, nyah', as Norfolk Southern has in the last couple of weeks to Chattahoochee Brick Company Descendants, the City of Atlanta, and everyone in the greater Metropolitan region.
1 old Woman In Time Challenging History
*Biden quote attributed to his mom