Press Release Oct 27, 2016

Proposed Birmingham National Park Site Would Tell Pivotal Civil Rights History

Public meeting hosted today to discuss national park proposal

BACKGROUND: Today Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis will join representatives from the City of Birmingham, U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL), and partner groups for a public meeting to hear input from community members about the proposal to create the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.

Birmingham was one of the most heavily segregated cities in the United States in the 1960s and was at the heart of the civil rights movement. The non-violent protest marches in Birmingham in the spring of 1963, and the violent response they evoked from police and state and local officials, drew national attention to and helped to break the back of segregation in that city.

The proposed park site would include portions of the Historic Birmingham Civil Rights District, including the A.G. Gaston Motel, the neighboring Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park.

Statement by Alan Spears, Director of Cultural Resources with National Parks Conservation Association:

“Adding Birmingham’s story to the National Park System would protect these important sites, and tell their stories now and for decades to come. It was during this period that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ when hundreds of marchers took to the streets to fight injustice and where brave Americans stood up in the face of violent repression. Birmingham tells the story of a group of determined citizens standing firm for equality and human dignity and ultimately changing the course of history. This national monument would protect these important places and honor the events that took place here so that they are never forgotten.

“There has been strong public support in the community and in Congress for this designation, and we are hopeful that today’s discussion will reflect that enthusiasm. Given this momentum and public support, NPCA is calling on President Obama to take timely action to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument as a new unit of the National Park System.”

Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association:

“The events in Birmingham opened our eyes to the plight of so many African Americans facing discrimination in the South, and ultimately led to the end of segregation. Places like the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park were pivotal in the struggle for civil rights, and are truly deserving of national park status. These important places deserve to be protected and the stories deserve to be told. And no group is better suited to do this than the National Park Service.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the local community, our partners and the Administration to make the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument a reality.”

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About National Parks Conservation Association

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.