National Parks Conservation Association Says Hastings, Castle Bill Would Save Underground Railroad Sites, Significant American History

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   March 1, 2007
Contact:   Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332


National Parks Conservation Association Says Hastings, Castle Bill Would Save Underground Railroad Sites, Significant American History

WASHINGTON, D.C . - The nation’s leading park advocacy group, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), today announced its support for legislation introduced today by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-23-FL) and Rep. Michael Castle (R-1-DE) to fund the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program.

“The leadership of Rep. Hastings and Rep. Castle will ensure that the Underground Railroad is not history, but a significant part of our American heritage,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. “Like many national parks, the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program has insufficient funding and staff. The modest funding increase of $2 million proposed by this bipartisan legislation would save this important program and ensure that the Underground Railroad is adequately interpreted and preserved for generations."

 

In his introductory statement, Rep. Hastings observed, “Our nation’s history is in peril when funding for our national parks is in peril. We must guarantee our future generations will be able to experience the critical journey of sacrifice and triumph that has empowered African-Americans and shaped the history of this nation.”

 

Introductory cosponsors of the bipartisan Hastings-Castle legislation (H.R. 1239) include Rep. Steve Cohen (D-9-TN), Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-15-NY), Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-10-NY), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-2-MS), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-2-GA), Rep. Albert Wynn (D-14-MD), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-18-TX), Rep. Dennis Moore (D-3-KS), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3-VA), Rep. Julia Carson (D-7-IN), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-1-NC), Rep. John Lewis (D-5-GA), Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-8-PA), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-7-MD), Rep. William Clay (D-1-MO), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-33-CA), Rep. John Shimkus (R-19-IL), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-4-WI), Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-29-NY), Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-2-PA), Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-17-FL), and Rep. John Conyers (D-14-MI).

 

The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act was signed into law in July 1998 (Public Law 105-203) and established the Network to Freedom program to increase public knowledge and awareness of the Underground Railroad. This program partners Park Service knowledge and modest grants with local expertise, empowering more than 285 state and local historic sites, community groups, and national park sites in 27 states and the District of Columbia to more capably tell their part of the Underground Railroad story. But without adequate funding, researchers can’t identify artifacts or document important oral histories, and important structures are lost to development or decay.

 

The Underground Railroad Network to Freedom is the only national program dedicated to the preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of Underground Railroad history. NPCA placed the program on its 2004 list of America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks because of insufficient funding.

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