Press Release Nov 18, 2021

Blackwell One Step Closer to Becoming National Park Site

The experiences, hardships and triumphs of Mexican American students at this segregated school in West Texas have so much to teach us.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act through committee. It is now up for consideration in both chambers of Congress, clearing the way for a presidential signature and a new national park site soon.

Until the mid-1900s, school systems across the American Southwest segregated students of color from white peers, sending Latino students to separate schools with less resources. Nestled in the borderlands town of Marfa, Texas, the Blackwell School is one of the last remaining “Mexican schools,” standing in good condition.

Many years after the school closed following mandatory integration, a group of Blackwell alumni formed the nonprofit Blackwell School Alliance and saved the property from destruction and future disrepair. Now, the National Parks Conservation Association and Blackwell School Alliance are leading a grassroots campaign urging Congress to make Blackwell a national park site.

Led by Senators John Cornyn and Alex Padilla, as well as Representatives Tony Gonzales and Filemon Vela, the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act is a symbol of bipartisan agreement amid tough conversations about race across the country.

The Blackwell School National Historic Act passed committees in conjunction with other urgent public lands legislation, including a bill to establish the Amache National Historic Site on land that was once an incarceration camp for Japanese Americans.

NPCA has long been a leader in campaigns to designate national park sites dedicated to diverse history, including the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and Stonewall National Monument. At NPCA, we believe we must expand our national parks system to tell the full American story, which includes stories like Blackwell and beyond.

Statement of Cary Dupuy, Texas Regional Director for The National Parks Conservation Association:

“Today’s vote brings us one step closer to protecting the Blackwell School for good. The experiences, hardships and triumphs of Mexican American students at this segregated school in West Texas have so much to teach us. Their stories have the power to change hearts and minds as we work together to ensure justice and equality for all.“

“There is no better teacher, storyteller and protector for a place as important as Blackwell than the National Park Service. We are grateful to leaders in Congress for recognizing the power of this story and working together with us to make the Blackwell School National Historic Site a reality.”

Statement of Daniel Hernandez, Blackwell School Alliance Board Member:

“As a descendant of Blackwell School alumni, I know the power this place embodies as a symbol of both our nation’s struggle with discrimination and our resolve to overcome this persistent impediment towards progress.

"Protecting the Blackwell School and its many stories is vital to ensuring we continue to learn about our nation’s complex history from many perspectives, especially those that have historically been obscured.

"For many Blackwell alumni living today, and countless others who have passed over the years, making this place a national park site would be a tremendous moment of validation that’s been in the making for generations.”

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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 1.6 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.

About the Blackwell School Alliance: The Blackwell School Alliance and its partners preserve and restore historic resources associated with the Blackwell School; interpret and commemorate the era of segregated Hispanic education; and serve the Marfa, Texas, community culturally, historically, and educationally for the benefit of all Marfa residents and visitors, now and into the future. For more information, visit www.theblackwellschool.org.

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