H.R. 4539, 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act

H.R. 4539

400 Years of African-American History Commission Act

Rep. Bobby Scott

January 1, 1970 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, July 5, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4539, the 400 years of African-American History Commission Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 4539 was introduced on February 11, 2016 by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4539 establishes the 400 Years of African-American History Commission to develop and carry out activities throughout the United States to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619. The Commission is directed to plan programs to acknowledge that impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States; encourage civic, patriotic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, and economic organizations to organize and participate in anniversary activities; assist states, localities, and nonprofit organizations to further the commemoration; and coordinate for the public scholarly research on the arrival of Africans in the United States and their contributions to this country.  In addition, the Commission may provide grants to communities, nonprofits, research, and scholarly organizations, and the Commission terminates on July 1, 2020.


On August 20, 1619, 20 Africans arrived at Point Comfort, present day Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, aboard a Dutch ship. They were the first Africans on record to be forcibly settled as involuntary laborers in the North American British Colonies. In 2011, President Obama declared Fort Monroe a National Monument.[1]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “The history of Virginia and our nation cannot be fully understood or appreciated without knowing about the first Africans who arrived at Point Comfort, Virginia in 1619. The commission established by this bill will be charged with the important task of planning, developing and implementing a series of programs and activities throughout 2019 that fully tells the story of African Americans, their contributions to the fabric of our nation, and their resilience over the last 400 years.”[2]

[1] See African American Registry
[2] See Rep. Scott’s Press Release, “Kaine, Warner, Scott, Butterfield, Beyer, NAACP Introduce Commission to Recognize 400 Years of African American History” February 11, 2016.


A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is currently not available. However, the legislation does not include an authorization for appropriations.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.