RALEIGH, N.C. — A Virginia man who wants the U.S. government to build a monument to blacks who fought in the Revolutionary War is asking North Carolina counties and towns to approve a resolution in support of the effort.
Maurice Barboza, founder of Liberty Fund DC, started by asking local government officials in the 1st Congressional District to sign resolutions in support of the monument because more blacks tied to the war lived in that area than any other in North Carolina. On Friday, 27 counties in 11 other congressional districts received the information, and he planned to send the information to Gov. Beverly Perdue, legislators and congressional representatives Monday.
"These patriots are the truest example of the struggle for liberty and democratic principles, yet for generations they were cast aside, misunderstood and portrayed as separate from the central theme of American history," said Barboza, who lives in Alexandria, Va. "I believe their story will help to bind citizens of every background to a principle-centered — rather than a race-centered — concept of who we are as a people. My generation never learned the history as children, to our detriment."
North Carolina was home to 5 percent — or 252 — of about 5,000 known patriots, said Barboza, citing research by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Of those, 109 came from the counties in the 1st District.
Liberty Fund DC began this phase of the project in May 2011 in Connecticut and Massachusetts, where several communities along with Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and lawmakers, have endorsed the effort. Others who support his effort are New Orleans; several areas in Virginia and then-Gov. Tim Kane; and Marietta, Ohio. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed a citation earlier this month.
Barboza, a marketing consultant and former staff member for the House Judiciary Committee, got involved in his family's ties to the Revolutionary War in the late 1970s when he traced his genealogy to a father and son from Maine who fought. He joined the Sons of the American Revolution in April 1980 and suggested that his aunt join the Daughters of the American Revolution.
DAR denied membership to his aunt, Lena Ferguson, before relenting after a four-year fight that resulted in a settlement requiring the DAR to identify black veterans of the Revolutionary War and publish a book about them, said Barboza, who describes himself as black with a multiracial background. That book, titled, "Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War" was published in 2008, although less complete versions were published earlier.
During that time, Barboza was involved in trying to bring the monument to the National Mall. But that effort fell apart, and the monument lost a reserved spot on the mall. He resumed his efforts after Ferguson died in 2004, and he's now working to get one built near the mall.
The bill would authorize the interior secretary to work with Liberty Fund DC to identify a site and come up with a design.
The material going to local and state leaders doesn't seek money, although private money eventually would pay for the monument. Instead, Barboza wants them "to share their history with the nation because that will propel the project everywhere and promote local sites of interest and more research to enlarge the DAR's work and bring clarity to individual patriots."
The project hit another obstacle in March, when one of the bill sponsors, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., died. Barboza has reached out to the office of Rep. G.K. Butterfield, the 1st District congressman. He has more black patriots in his district than any other member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Butterfield is willing to sponsor the bill but is working with Payne's office to see if that's the right step to take, said Saul Hernandez, Butterfield's legislative director. "We'll do everything we can to make sure these people are honored," Hernandez said.
The bill ready to go to the Senate floor but hasn't moved forward in the House during this congressional session, Barboza said. The bill would authorize the interior secretary to work with Liberty Fund DC to identify a site and come up with a design.
The memorial "would help Americans understand our common heritage and common principles that were hard fought," he said.