Press Release Feb 28, 2020

Parks Group Champions Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area

The Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area would protect stories of our nation's diverse heritage, from pre-colonial Native American cities to early American rural life to the American Civil Rights Movement and beyond.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL-07) introduced the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Act (H.R. 5989), which would designate Alabama’s Black Belt a National Heritage Area. Senators Doug Jones (D-AL) and Richard Shelby have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Designated by Congress, national heritage areas are public-private partnerships, receiving funding and technical assistance from the federal government and matching that funding dollar for dollar with non-federal sources. National heritage areas are significant economic drivers for regions that have often experienced hardship, promoting tourism and allowing for greater investment back into local communities.

National heritage areas protect resources and interpret stories that are unique to regions of the country and also nationally significant. The proposed Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area would protect stories of our nation’s diverse heritage, from pre-colonial Native American cities to early American rural life to the American Civil Rights Movement and beyond.

The proposed Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area would consist of sites in Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington, and Wilcox Counties.

Statement of Alan Spears, Senior Director of Cultural Resources for National Parks Conservation Association:

“Named for its rich soil, the Alabama Black Belt landscape contains an abundance of natural resources, including the Talladega and Tuskegee National Forests, the Cahaba, Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers, and the Choctaw and Cahaba National Wildlife Refuges, but has also served as fertile ground for a wealth of important American stories.

“From its beginnings as a center of Native settlement and then as a network of tight-knit Southern rural communities, the Black Belt region rose to national prominence during the Civil Rights Movement. Undaunted by death threats and bloodshed, brave civil rights activists, including Stokely Carmichael, went door to door in counties across the Black Belt in the 1960s to register black voters who had never before cast a ballot. Historic places like the Tuskegee Institute and Dexter Avenue Baptist Church are included in this new National Heritage Area.

“The National Parks Conservation Association commends Congresswoman Terri Sewell for her leadership in calling for Congress to designate the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area. With additional technical assistance from the National Park Service and federal funding, the Alabama Black Belt will be better-equipped to safeguard important ecological and cultural resources for generations to come. We expect this support will generate economic growth for a region rising above hardship.”

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About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.