2005 Regular Session
By: Representative Scott
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 39-29-1, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO EXPAND THE PURPOSE OF THE MISSISSIPPI COMMISSION ON THE HOLOCAUST, TO INCLUDE CONSIDERATION AND STUDY OF THE MIDDLE PASSAGE; TO DESCRIBE THE MIDDLE PASSAGE AS THAT PERIOD IN HISTORY FROM 1440 TO 1870 WHEN AFRICANS WERE KIDNAPPED AND SOLD INTO SLAVERY IN THEIR HOMELAND, AND THEN TRANSPORTED IN DANGEROUS AND INHUMANE CONDITIONS TO EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA; TO EXPAND THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE COMMISSION; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The Legislature of the State of Mississippi finds and declares that:
(a) During the period from 1440 to 1870, more than sixty million (60,000,000) Africans were kidnapped and transported on the longest, hardest, most dangerous and most horrific voyage known to man. The Africans were sold as slaves in their homeland to outsiders who transported them in crowded slave ships under dangerous and inhumane conditions that included exposure to infectious diseases such as smallpox, dysentery and ophthalmia. The Africans, who were captured, branded and locked in chains, endured abominable and inhumane conditions. The experience of the African slaves remains today the most paramount example of human mistreatment and suffering, and it is known as the Middle Passage.
(b) All people should remember the horrible atrocities committed at that time and other times in human history as the result of bigotry and tyranny, and therefore should continually rededicate themselves to the principles of human rights and equal protection under the laws of a democratic society;
(c) It is desirable to educate our citizens about the events during the Middle Passage and about the institution of slavery and its history;
(d) The history of the Middle Passage is the proper concern of all people, particularly students enrolled in the schools, colleges and universities of the State of Mississippi;
(e) It is desirable to have a permanent state commission, which as an organized body and on a continuous basis, will survey, design, encourage and promote implementation of the Middle Passage education and awareness programs in Mississippi, and will be responsible for organizing and promoting the memorialization of the Middle Passage on a regular basis throughout the state.
SECTION 2. Section 39-29-1, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
39-29-1. (1) There is created the Mississippi Commission on the Holocaust and the Middle Passage in the executive branch of state government. The commission shall be assigned to the Office of the Secretary of State for administrative purposes only.
(2) The commission shall be composed of the following members:
(a) Ex officio members as follows:
(i) The State Superintendent of Public Education or his or her designee;
(ii) Commissioner of Institutions of Higher Learning or his or her designee;
(b) Public members as follows:
(i) Fourteen (14) public members, at least two (2) from each of the congressional districts, to be appointed by the Governor;
(ii) Ten (10) public members, at least two (2) from each of the congressional districts, to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and
(iii) Ten (10) public members, at least two (2) from each of the congressional districts, to be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.
(c) The public members of the commission shall be residents of this state and shall be appointed with due regard for broad geographic representation. The public members should include, but are not be limited to, the following:
(i) Individuals who have served prominently as spokespersons for or as leaders of organizations or corporations that serve members of religious, ethnic, national heritage, or social groups that were subjected to genocide, slavery, kidnapping, torture, wrongful deprivation of liberty or property, officially imposed or sanctioned violence, * * * other forms of human rights violations and persecution at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators during the Nazi era and other forms of human rights violations and persecution at the hands of those who furthered the absolute terror of African-American slavery, both during and after the Middle Passage;
(ii) Individuals who are experienced in the field of Holocaust and the Middle Passage education;
(iii) Individuals who represent liberators of victims of the Holocaust; or
(iv) Lay persons who have an interest in Holocaust and the Middle Passage education.
(d) Public members of the commission shall be appointed for the terms of five (5) years and until their respective successors are appointed and qualified. Public members may be eligible for reappointment. The office of any member of the commission who fails to attend more than two (2) consecutive meetings of the commission without an excuse approved by a resolution of the commission shall become vacant. All vacancies shall be filled by appointment in the same manner as the original appointment, and the person appointed to fill a vacancy shall serve for the remainder of the unexpired term.
(e) The commission shall have a chairperson who shall be appointed by the Governor for a term of five (5) years and until his or her successor is appointed and qualified.
(f) Fifteen (15) members of the commission shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of the business of the commission. Public members shall have the right to vote on any matter before the commission, but ex officio members and their designees shall not have the right to vote.
(g) The Speaker of the House of Representatives shall appoint a member of the House of Representatives and the Lieutenant Governor shall appoint a member of the Senate to serve as advisors to the commission.
(3) The Mississippi Commission on the Holocaust and the Middle Passage shall adopt rules and regulations and set standards and policies for the organization, operation, management, budgeting and programs of the commission.
(a) The commission shall provide, based upon the collective knowledge and experience of its members, assistance and advice to public and private schools, colleges and universities with respect to the implementation of Holocaust and the Middle Passage education and awareness programs.
(b) The commission shall meet with appropriate education officials and other interested public and private organizations, including service organizations, for the purpose of providing information, planning, coordination, or modification of courses of study or programs dealing with the subject of the Holocaust and the Middle Passage.
(c) The commission shall survey and catalogue the extent of the Holocaust and genocide education and the Middle Passage presently being incorporated into the curricula and taught in the educational system of this state.
(d) The commission shall inventory those Holocaust and the Middle Passage memorials, exhibits and resources that could not be incorporated into courses of study or programs at various locations and other educational agencies for the development and implementation of Holocaust and the Middle Passage and genocide education programs. In furtherance of this responsibility, the commission may contact and cooperate with existing Holocaust and genocide and the Middle Passage public and private nonprofit resource organizations and may act as a liaison concerning Holocaust and genocide education and the Middle Passage or members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, the Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other national and international Holocaust agencies, and any memorial museum related to the Middle Passage and other national and international agencies related thereto.
(e) The commission shall compile a roster of individual volunteers who are willing to share their verifiable knowledge and experience in classrooms, seminars and workshops on the subject of the Holocaust and the Middle Passage. The volunteers may be survivors of the Holocaust, liberators of concentration camps, scholars, members of the clergy, community relations professionals, * * * other persons who, by virtue of their experience, education, or interest, have experience with the Holocaust, and direct descendants of Africans kidnapped during the Middle Passage.
(f) The commission shall coordinate events memorializing the Holocaust and the Middle Passage and seek volunteers who are willing and able to participate in commemorative events that will enhance public awareness of the significance of the Holocaust and the Middle Passage.
(g) The commission shall prepare reports for the Governor and the Legislature regarding its findings and recommendations to facilitate the inclusion of Holocaust and the Middle Passage studies and special programs memorializing the Holocaust and the Middle Passage in educational systems of this state.
(h) The commission shall appoint advisory committees to advise the commission on the fulfillment of its duties.
(4) The commission may receive gifts, grants and donations from any public or private sources. Members of the commission may not be compensated for the performance of their duties except from funds that are specifically appropriated therefor by the Legislature or from gifts, grants or donations.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.