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Sewell Proposes Civil Rights Movement National Park in Birmingham

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Poltical Reporter
On Tuesday, March 22, US Representative Terri A. Sewell (D-Selma) introduced legislation that would create a Civil Rights Movement National Park in the center of the City of Birmingham.
Congresswoman Sewell said, “The A.G. Gaston Motel, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, and Kelly Ingram Park represent a time in the Civil Rights Movement when a group of determined citizens stood firm in the face of violent repression, and won major concessions.”
Rep. Sewell wrote, “In 1963, much of the world was riveted with the events in Birmingham. Now, more than 50 years later, this critical chapter in the American Civil Rights story must not fade from public memory. A Birmingham National Park site would preserve a pivotal and monumental time in our Civil Rights history – that had repercussions across the country. We must honor the events here and ensure they are never forgotten. Pledge your support for Birmingham National Park today.”
Rep. Sewell announced the filing of HR4817, a bill to designate Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights District as a National Park. Sewell said, “I am proud to introduce this important, bi-partisan legislation that incorporates Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights sites into the National Park Service System.  With this designation, historic preservation efforts will be enhanced for these historic sites, greater economic revitalization will occur, and it will forever cement the pivotal role Birmingham played in the Civil Rights Movement.”
Congresswoman Sewell said, “The Historic Civil Rights District in Birmingham holds many stories of the journey from what was regarded as one of the most segregated cities in the South to what Birmingham is today. The National Park designation will be a real tourism boost for Birmingham and will mean greater economic development for Alabama. The Birmingham Civil Rights District will include 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelley Ingram Park, A.G. Gaston Motel and other historic landmarks.”
Birmingham Mayor William Bell said, “Sharing the Birmingham Civil Rights Story and legacy is paramount to the success of the City. We are thankful to Congresswoman Sewell for moving this legislation forward. This is an exciting time for our City.”
The vice president of Government Relations & Policy, National Trust for Historic Preservation Tom Cassidy said, “As a gathering place for activists and leaders in the Civil Rights movement, the sites within the Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park tell of the African-American fight for equality. The National Trust applauds Congresswoman Terri Sewell for her leadership in introducing this significant legislation, and proudly stands with Mayor William A. Bell and the City of Birmingham in supporting this effort to preserve not only the places but the history that happened in the thriving historic district. We urge the House of Representatives to quickly approve this legislation to ensure these places live on to benefit future generations of Americans and beyond.”
The President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association Theresa Pierno said, “Birmingham was one of the most heavily segregated cities in the United States in the 1960s. 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 and helped to break the back of segregation in that city. We commend Representative Sewell for working to ensure these pivotal moments in the long struggle to bring equality and justice to all Americans will never be forgotten. The addition of a Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park would allow this important Civil Rights story to be told for generations to come.”
The proposed Birmingham national park site would include the 16th Street Baptist Church, A.G. Gaston Motel, Kelly Ingram Park, Bethel Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  The move would transfer the cost of restoration and maintenance of the monuments from the City of Birmingham to the National Park Service.
Rep. Sewell said, “Birmingham was the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. Let’s preserve this history with a National Park.”

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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