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Black Belt National Heritage Area Act passes after nearly a decade

The legislation will designate 14 counties in the Alabama Black Belt region as a national heritage area.

(STOCK)

A bill to designate 14 counties in the Alabama Black Belt region as a national heritage area has passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and now awaits President Joseph Biden’s signature for full enactment.

The bill, originally filed by Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell and titled the Black Belt National Heritage Area Act, will allow up to $1 million in federal funds to be spent annually on the preservation and protection of important sites in the black belt. A strategic management plan will be crafted by the University of West Alabama in collaboration with the National Park Service.

“For the first time, many historic areas in the Black Belt will be designated as a National Heritage Area, freeing up additional federal resources for historic preservation, tourism, and economic development,” Sewell said in a statement released on Thursday. “Passage of this bill is the culmination of years of tireless advocacy and negotiation on behalf of the residents of the Black Belt.”

The passage on Thursday is the culmination of nearly a decades worth of legislative work by Sewell and members of the Alabama delegation. As early as 2013, only two years after Sewell began her first term representing Alabama’s 7th U.S. Congressional District, she filed a version of this bill that died without passing out of committee.

“Designating Alabama’s Black Belt as a National Heritage Area is a tremendous achievement and marks the culmination of more than a decade of work and support by countless volunteers and organizations not only across the Black Belt but from throughout the State of Alabama and across the nation,” said Dr. Tina Naremore Jones, Assistant Provost and Vice President for Economic and Workforce Development at the University of West Alabama, in a statement released on Thursday. “Our grassroots organizations have been steadfast supporters of this effort, and we are thankful for Congresswoman Sewell and Senator Shelby’s leadership in moving this legislation forward.”

The bill now awaits the President’s signature for final consideration.

John is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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