WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today introduced a bipartisan bill to create an African American Civil Rights Network – a national network of historic sites, stories, research facilities, and educational programs connected to the African American Civil Rights Movement. The U.S. Civil Rights Network Act of 2015 would also establish a National Park Service (NPS) program to educate the public, and provide technical assistance for documenting, preserving, and interpreting the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Bipartisan companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Lacy Clay (D-MO-1) and Jason Smith (R-MO-8).
“We must never forget the struggle of the brave women and men who risked their lives to demand full and equal participation in our democracy,” said Brown. “Creating a national network of historic sites would preserve the history of the African American Civil Rights Movement for future generations as we continue to work to secure full civil rights for all Americans.”
"Memphis's continuing role in the civil rights movement is of huge significance, and the Mason Temple, the Church of God in Christ, and the Lorraine Hotel at the National Civil Rights Museum are important places that help us reflect on the progress we have made," said Alexander. "I support protecting these sites in Memphis, and others across the country, so that our children can grow up learning what it means to be American.”
“We applaud Senator Brown and Senator Alexander’s leadership in introducing the African American Civil Rights Network Act of 2015,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “By linking the historic sites, routes, corridors, and regions that defined the struggle for African American equality, this bill will deepen our understanding of the relationship between the people and places of the modern Civil Rights movement, and help us better appreciate its context and complexity. We urge senators to join Senator Brown and Senator Alexander in supporting this crucial effort to advance how the diverse stories of our nation’s heritage are told.”
The bill is supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust for Public Land.
The African American Civil Rights Network would initially look to include historic sites identified by the NPS’ Civil Rights Initiative like Mason Temple in Memphis, TN, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “Mountaintop” speech the day before his assassination. There is also the opportunity for additional sites to be added like Miami University’s Western Campus in Oxford, OH, where students trained to register African American voters in Mississippi during Freedom Summer.