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Effort to preserve historic gravesites of Black people in N.H. stalls at State House

JerriAnne Boggis, executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, poses with a monument that was erected in Harriet E. Wilson's honor. Boggis says when she read Wilson's book, she felt as if it was written the book just for her.
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JerriAnne Boggis, executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, previously told NHPR the preservation effort would help to return "the humanity, the memory of that humanity, to people who were not treated well in life.”

A legislative effort to protect enslavement-era graves of Black people in New Hampshire was voted down last week.

(Read NHPR's earlier coverage of this legislation: "It returns the humanity, the memory of that humanity, to people who were not treated well in life.")

The House sent Senate Bill 258 to interim study on Thursday in a 180-146 vote without discussion. Ahead of the vote, members of the House Committee on Resources, Recreation, and Development recommended further study on the bill, questioning whether it was necessary and citing other parts of statute they said address this issue. And they took issue with the bill’s mention of a private nonprofit to represent the interests of the “descendant community.”

The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire is named in the bill as a “designated representative” of the African American descendant community, since it might not be possible to find direct descendants.

A majority of the committee worried that “could give that organization governmental-type control and oversight over all aspects of the processes involved in the discovery, restoration, and/or preservation of relics, gravesites, and the remains of African Americans from the period of enslavement.”

The committee recommended interim study in a 13-8 vote, with the minority of the House panel arguing that the bill was needed to assure “proper recognition and dignity is given to these individuals’ remains.”

The bill had received broad bipartisan support in the Senate, which passed the bill unanimously in February.

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: info@newhampshirebulletin.com. Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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