DETROIT — State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) introduced a resolution today to recognize and honor 400 years of African American heritage in the United States. In 1619, the first Africans were kidnapped from their homelands and brought to Virginia as part of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“Enslaved Africans laid the literal cornerstones of foundational American institutions, but in the centuries since, their contributions continue to be minimalized in our larger conversations about American history,” said Gay-Dagnogo. “This erasure is something we must work to combat every single day, because African American heritage is American history. As we commemorate the 400 years of African Americans in our great country, as a nation we need to reflect honestly on our history —  the triumphs and the atrocities — if we’re truly going to strive to be a more equitable country.”

The uncompensated labor of enslaved Africans in the newly formed nation directly contributed to much of the country’s wealth and development of crucial institutions. “If we were to quantify the economic contributions of African Americans to this country, some estimate that it would be measured in trillions of dollars,” said Gay-Dagnogo. “More than 200 years of slavery weren’t suddenly undone with the freeing of the slaves, any more than 100 years of Jim Crow were magically erased with the Civil Rights Act. Within our national dialogue about reparations, we must look to implement attainable solutions that consider the massive generational traumas handed down to today’s men and women of color, and recognize that  to place African Americans on equal footing we must look at things like  access to quality K-12 and higher education, small business stimulus programs and the procurement processes for minority owned businesses.”

This resolution builds upon House Bill 4276, introduced by Gay-Dagnogo in February of 2019 to increase and strengthen the inclusion of African American history in Michigan’s K-12 public education curriculum.