Tue 15 Sep, 2009
Tags: Byron Rushing, Historical amnesia, Legislation, Massachusetts, Slave trade, Slavery
Earlier this year, I wrote about Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing’s proposed slavery-era disclosure law. At that time, I indicated that Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development should hold a public hearing later in the year.
The committee has now scheduled a public hearing for Monday, October 5 at 1:00pm at which testimony will be heard on Rushing’s bill, H 3148. The hearing will be held at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester.
Rushing’s bill would make Massachusetts the fifth state, after Illinois, Iowa, California and Maryland, to enact a slavery-era disclosure law. The legislation would require companies doing business with Massachusetts, and which existed prior to 1889, to research their involvement with slavery and the slave trade. This research would then be used by the Commonwealth’s secretary of state to compile a history of the state’s role in slavery and the slave trade.
The most recent state to enact a slavery-era disclosure law was Maryland, which enacted its law in the spring. I wrote then about the benefits of such laws in combating this nation’s historical amnesia concerning the centrality of slavery to our national past.
There has been fierce opposition to these laws from some quarters, but I think Professor Ira Berlin, author of such books as Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in Mainland North America (1998), summed up well the importance and simplicity of such legislation in his testimony on the Maryland legislation:
I think we’re implicated in all kinds of ways both good and bad, and that’s the way we are as people.
It’s important that we know who we are.