Last fall, the Florida Senate agreed without objection to strip the Confederate battle flag from its official seal. Today, Florida lawmakers are hearing testimony on a proposal that would go further toward redressing the wounds of slavery: the creation of a Florida Slavery Memorial at the state Capitol.
“It is the intent of the Legislature to recognize the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the American Colonies,” reads HB 27, introduced by Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, in November.
The SPLC expressed its support for the bill today.
“Acknowledging the sin of slavery would be one step toward justice for those who were exploited and dehumanized in the cruelest ways. It would provide an opportunity to validate and appreciate the work of those who toiled against their will to advance this great nation. And it would serve as a healthy reminder and warning to this and future generations of the capacity of some to tolerate and participate in the violation and subjugation of others.”
McGhee introduced the legislation following the passage of a bill last year to create a Holocaust memorial at the Capitol complex.
Throughout the state, at least 25 monuments and statues honor Confederate figures on public property in Florida. But the first memorial dedicated to enslaved people in the state was not erected until 2002, when a citizen of Ocala successfully lobbied to have one placed in a city park.
HB 27 would memorialize the thousands of people who were kidnapped, sold, brutalized, and forced to work in the state for the profit of others. The memorial be built at the Capitol complex, which is adjacent to the historic Old Capitol building.
Like the Holocaust memorial, the slavery memorial would be built and managed by the Florida Department of Management Services following recommendations from the Florida Historical Commission.