• Multiple Bills Introduced in Honor of Black History Month

    March 1, 2023

    A swath of legislation was introduced in February to promote Black history in honor of Black History Month. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the Springfield Race Riot National Monument Act (S. 384), which would designate the 1908 Springfield Race Riots site as a national monument.

    The area near Madison Street and the 10th Street Rail Corridor in Springfield, Illinois, includes structural remains of Black-owned homes burned during the 1908 race riots. Over two days during these riots, the community experienced the shooting deaths and lynching of African Americans, as well as significant destruction of property. The riots also catalyzed civil rights activists to launch meetings that led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

    The National Trust endorsed multiple iterations of the legislation and engaged in several Hill meetings over the years, supporting the preservation and permanent protection of this significant site. Most recently, the National Trust supported the preservation of the site in comments to the National Park Service during the public comment period for the special resource study related to this legislation.

    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) reintroduced the African American History Act (S. 233 / H.R. 765). This legislation would provide important resources to help educate the American public about the richness and complexity of African American history and the impacts of racism, white supremacy, and the struggle for justice on the fabric of America.

    It would invest $10 million over five years in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to support African American history education programs. The bill has nine cosponsors in the Senate and 113 in the House.

    Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Kweisi Mfume (D-MD) introduced the National Council on African American History and Culture Act of 2023 (S. 215 / H.R. 727). This legislation would create a 12-person National Council on African American History and Culture to advise the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) on how they can best amplify the work of Black creators, strengthen teaching and learning in schools to ensure Black history and culture is recognized, and provide critical resources dedicated to preserving Black history.

    The council would monitor the work of museums and organizations and make national policy recommendations to foster and promote the understanding and preservation of African American history. The bill has 53 cosponsors in the House.

  • National Trust Pushes Back on New York State About Penn Station Improvement Project

    February 22, 2023

    Earlier in 2022, the National Trust wrote in opposition to New York State’s Pennsylvania Station Area Civic and Land Use Improvement Project—an effort to demolish eight National Register-eligible buildings and build 10 towers totaling over 18 million square feet.

    While we and our partners, New York Landmarks Conservancy and Preservation League of New York State, agree that Penn Station needs major improvements, we disagree with New York State designating the surrounding area as “blighted.” With numerous irreplaceable historic resources and significant commercial and business activity, the area is not blighted by any reasonable definition, and we continue to urge better, more thoughtful solutions that combine historic rehabilitation and possibly new construction.

    The amicus brief was filed on February 21, 2023. It can be downloaded with full citations here.

  • Tribal Priorities Achieve Victories

    December 28, 2022

    As one of the final bill signings of 2022, President Biden signed into law the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act (S. 1471 / H.R. 2930) on December 21. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation, strongly supported by the National Trust, would strengthen laws aimed at preventing trafficking in Native American cultural items and facilitate the voluntary return of sacred and cultural objects.

    The Honorable Brian D. Vallo, Governor of Pueblo of Acoma—a National Trust co-stewardship site in New Mexico—testified as a witness in support of the bill at a May 2021 hearing before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. The Senate passed the bill unanimously at the end of November, following House passage last year.

    At the White House Tribal Nations Summit in early December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) proposed to rescind Appendix C and instead follow the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s regulations and guidance for implementing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Appendix C procedures have proved problematic for decades by narrowly defining undertakings, minimizing the Area of Potential Effects, and limiting consultation with Tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and other consulting parties. The Appendix C procedures have also been applied inconsistently, undermining the USACE’s ability to reliably steward America’s heritage. While the proposal is encouraging, the announcement is the first step of many and will likely take up to a year before Appendix C is rescinded.

  • Major Wins for Honoring Japanese American Heritage

    December 28, 2022

    Within the omnibus bill passed by Congress on December 23, 2022, were major wins for Japanese American heritage. The provisions increase the authorization of appropriations from $38 million to $80 million for the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program, which supports the preservation of internment camps that were used to detain Japanese Americans during World War II. It also creates the Japanese American Confinement Education grant program within JACS to provide grants to Japanese American nonprofits to educate individuals about the historical significance of these events.

    The package also establishes the Japanese American World War II History Network within the National Park Service that will interconnect sites across the country related to the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans and to increase recognition of this human rights tragedy which occurred on U.S. soil during World War II.

  • African American Burial Grounds Preservation Program Success!

    December 28, 2022

    Included within the omnibus package passed by Congress on December 23, 2022, were a smattering of public lands bills, including the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Program. This program authorizes the National Park Service to establish a $3 million annual grant program to aid preservation efforts across the country to research, identify, document, preserve, and interpret historic African American burial grounds.

    The provisions allow descendant-led and preservation organizations working to protect African American burial grounds to receive funding to preserve these sacred landscapes.

    “Passage of the African American Burial Grounds bill sets a new precedent for how our nation values the cultural legacy and generational memory of African Americans and their contributions to society," says Brent Leggs, executive director, African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and senior vice president, National Trust for Historic Preservation. "We thank Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Representative Alma Adams (D-NC), the late Representative Don McEachin (D-VA), and other advocates for their bold vision to acknowledge the role of descendant-led stewardship as part of this bill and for their leadership to ensure its passage.”

    The National Trust supported this legislation in a House Natural Resources hearing, a Senate Energy and National Resources hearing, and a webinar, “Historic African American Cemeteries,” hosted by Cultural Heritage Partners.

    We are so thankful to all of you who shared your stories of African American burial grounds with our leaders in Congress during the PastForward advocacy opportunity. We now look forward to working with the Secretary of the Interior, partner organizations, and members of the African American heritage community on the implementation of the grant program. If you are looking for resources to protect a historic cemetery, learn more about the Action Fund grant programs and consider applying.

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