Terri Sewell-backed plan to restore Civil Rights-era historic sites funding passes U.S. House

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell ended her week in Congress on a sweet note — the third-term Democrat successfully amended this year’s federal Department of the Interior‘s Appropriations Bill to include an additional $7 million in funding for the department’s Civil Rights Initiative, which funds the restoration and maintenance of historic sites and markers related to the era.

“National treasures like the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site tell the story of the struggle for civil rights. It is our obligation to preserve these sites for future generations,” said Sewell, the first African-American woman to represent Alabama in Washington, in a statement.

The overall appropriation given to the initiative — $16.5 million including the funds in Sewell’s amendment — still falls considerably short of the $40 million requested by President Barack Obama.

“Reduced funding severely limits our ability to protect sites that belong to the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks,” continued Sewell before enumerating her amendment’s effects.

Per a release, her budget amendment:

  • Restores $2.5 million for the rehabilitation and preservation of significant historic properties on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,
  • Increases funding by $2.5 million for documenting and preserving civil rights history, and
  • Increases funding by $2 million for competitive grants for underserved communities under the Historic Preservation Fund.

Sewell said she was glad of the progress the House made in its budget for Civil Rights sites, but said there was much more to be done.

“On the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we should be investing in National Park Service sites associated with the Civil Rights Movement, not cutting necessary funding,” Sewell concluded.

Sewell, was born in Selma, represents Alabama’s 6th Congressional District, including much of the state’s “Black Belt” and parts of Birmingham, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa. She is the state delegation’s sole Democrat.

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