Obama names three new national monuments honoring Civil Rights Movement

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President Barack Obama used his executive authority to name three new national monuments, honoring the Civil Rights Movement. Obama also expanded two existing national monuments to protect critical biodiversity.

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President Barack Obama used his executive authority to name three new national monuments, honoring the Civil Rights Movement. The designations will protect historic sites in Alabama and South Carolina that played an important role in American history stretching from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.

The new monuments are the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Freedom Riders National Monument and Reconstruction Era National Monument.

Honoring Civil Rights and protecting the environment

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument will protect the historic A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama, which served at one point as the headquarters for the civil rights campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It will also offer tourists and visitors information about other nearby Birmingham historic sites like the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which was the site of a bombing in 1963; and Kelly Ingram Park, where Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor turned hoses and dogs on young civil rights protesters.

The Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston, Alabama contains two sites, both linked to the civil rights movement.  The monument includes the Greyhound Bus Station where a racially integrated bus of Freedom Riders attempting to test desegregation was attacked in the spring of 1961, and the site where the same bus was firebombed and burned some minutes later.

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The Reconstruction Era National Monument,  in South Carolina, contains four sites throughout Beaufort County that share the story of the community developed by freed former African American slaves in the Reconstruction Era South. It includes the Brick Baptist Church and Darrah Hall at the existing Penn Center on St. Helena Island as well as the Old Firehouse in downtown Beaufort and parts of Camp Saxton in Port Royal where the Emancipation Proclamation was read on New Year’s Day in 1863. These sites establish the first unit of the National Park System focused on telling the story of Reconstruction.

Obama also used this occasion to expend two existing natural parks in order to protect biodiversity and natural resources in Oregon and California. The existing California Coastal National Monument will include additional 6,230 acres encompassing other six coastal sits, protecting Native heritage. In Oregon, the current Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument gained another 42,000 acres of public land in Oregon and approximately 5,000 acres in California to increase vital habitat connectivity in order to protect biodiversity and assure the survival of important species affected by climate change.

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