Friday, January 13, 2017

Obama creates three national monuments in Ala., S.C. on civil rights movement, Reconstruction

The bus (Photo by Joseph Postiglione via The Anniston Star)
President Obama on Thursday created three new national monuments in the South. "The White House said the president was using his authority to mark the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday by creating two new sites in Alabama, the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and the Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston," where a bus was attacked and burned, and the Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina, Jennifer Yachnin reports for Greenwire.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument will
save the A.G. Gaston Motel where Martin Luther King Jr.
had a "war room" before the motel was bombed in 1963.
The hotel, vacant for 20 years, will be restored.
Obama said in a statement: "Today, I am designating new national monuments that preserve critical chapters of our country's history, from the Civil War to the civil rights movement. These monuments preserve the vibrant history of the Reconstruction Era and its role in redefining freedom. These stories are part of our shared history. ... I have sought to build a more inclusive national park system and ensure that our national parks, monuments and public lands are fully reflective of our nation's diverse history and culture."

The Anniston monument will encompass two sites, the bus station where an interracial group of civil-rights activists "rolled into town challenging segregation on interstate buses" and were attacked by a mob, and "the site on Alabama 202 west of town where [the] bus broke down and was firebombed by a white mob," Eddie Burkhalter reports for The Anniston Star. Obama said in his proclamation, "Media coverage of the Freedom Rides inspired many people to take action and join the effort to end racial inequality."

"The Reconstruction monument includes several sites near Beaufort, S.C., which fell under control of the Union Army in November 1861, and became one of the first places where emancipated slaves voted, bought property and created churches, schools and businesses," reports Jennifer Scheussler of The New York Times. "For some historians, the creation of the Reconstruction monument, by the nation’s first African-American president, represents a particularly sweet symbolic victory" of a 15-year effort that was opposed by "the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others, and died in Congress. It was renewed in spring 2015." Stephen Fastenau of the Beaufort Gazette reports, "A National Park Service study concluded Beaufort County was the most logical place for a monument to the period during and after the Civil War because of the saturation of important sites."

Read more here:

Obama also expanded two national monuments. The California Coastal Monument, created by President Clinton in 2000 and expanded by Obama in 2014, will be expanded again by 6,230 acres. The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument will add 42,000 acres of public land in Oregon and 5,000 acres in California.

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