The National Parks Conservation Association and Blackwell School Alliance are leading a grassroots campaign for a park that will honor the stories of Latino students and their families, centered around a former segregated school in West Texas.
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Blackwell School National Historic Site Act.
This passage clears one of the last hurdles in the National Parks Conservation Association’s campaign to make the Blackwell School a national park site. NPCA will now work to secure Senate passage so the legislation can be signed into law, and America will have its next national park site.
Led by Representatives Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23) and Filemon Vela (D-TX-34) and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Alex Padilla (D-CA), the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act is a symbol of bipartisan agreement amid challenging conversations about race across the country.
Until the mid-1900s, school systems across the American Southwest segregated Latino students from white peers, sending Latinos to separate schools with fewer 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 integration, a group of Blackwell alumni formed the nonprofit Blackwell School Alliance and saved the property from possible destruction down the line. The National Parks Conservation Association and Blackwell School Alliance are leading a grassroots campaign for a park that will honor the stories of Latino students and their families during this little-known nationally significant chapter of history. It’s time for Congress to make Blackwell a national park site.
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 the Blackwell School’s and beyond.
Statement of Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for The National Parks Conservation Association:
“As our country continues to grapple with urgent, endemic issues of race, identity, and institutional discrimination, we need to act now to protect places like the Blackwell School so the important stories of our past can be told now, and for generations.
“The stories of hardship that Latino students faced at Blackwell and their resilience in the face of discrimination have so much to teach us about America’s past, present, and future. That is why we have been working to ensure this story is preserved within the National Park System. To immerse ourselves in a painful part of our history, and to understand and never forget what these Blackwell students endured and overcame.
“As park advocates and students of history, we are grateful to our leaders in the House of Representatives for passing the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act. We look now to the Senate to stand with the students of Blackwell and their descendants and make this place a national park site.”
Statement of Gretel Enck, President of the Blackwell School Alliance:
“Former students of the Blackwell School have been working for years to preserve their schoolhouse and its stories. This is a grassroots effort that commemorates a significant chapter of American history in a physical space where the history lived and breathed.
“The National Park Service is one of America’s greatest storytellers, so we know the Blackwell will be in good hands once this bill becomes law.
“We are gratified to know that members of the House of Representatives, especially Tony Gonzales and Filemon Vela, recognize the national significance of our school and its implications for telling a broader history of the Latino experience in the United States. We are hopeful that the Senate takes up the torch for Blackwell next.”
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 more than 1.5 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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