Springfield Race Riot National Historic Monument Act STATEMENT OF DAVID VELA, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OPERATIONS, EXERCISING THE AUTHORITY OF THE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS, CONCERNING H.R. 139, A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE SPRINGFIELD RACE RIOT NATIONAL HISTORIC MONUMENT IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. OCTOBER 29, 2019_____________________________________________________________________________ Chairwoman Haaland, Ranking Member Young, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 139, a bill to establish the Springfield Race Riot National Historic Monument in the State of Illinois, and for other purposes. The Department recognizes the important contribution to America’s story that is represented by the resources related to the Springfield Race Riot of 1908. A reconnaissance survey assessment of a site near Madison Street and the 10th Street Rail Corridor in Springfield, Illinois, associated with the 1908 Springfield Race Riot, completed in September, 2019, found the site is likely to meet the National Park Service’s criteria for inclusion in the National Park System. Establishing a unit of the National Park System could be one way to preserve and interpret the resources and related stories of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot, but it may not be the most appropriate or feasible way to do so. If the Committee chooses to act on this bill, traditionally a special resource study could be authorized to develop management scenarios for the site, and to engage the public on potential National Park Service management. H.R. 139 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish the Springfield Race Riot National Historic Monument. The bill includes authorities for land acquisition and administration that are commonly included in legislation establishing a unit of the National Park System. The Springfield site contains the foundations of five of the dozens of homes that were destroyed during the 1908 riot that engulfed the city. The riot was a multi-day affair, started by a white mob, directed against African American residents. The riot resulted in the lynching of two black men, assaults on many more, and the destruction of whole neighborhoods. The riot, trials, and aftermath of the events in Springfield drew national attention to racial violence and sparked direct action by many civil rights leaders. The events in Springfield occurred in Abraham Lincoln’s hometown, a few months before the centennial of his birth, and highlighted the lack of progress on race relations in America. In February 1909, leaders sparked by the Springfield riot formed the National Negro Committee, which would later become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Springfield Race Riot site is important for its association with the creation of the NAACP and contributes to our understanding of racial violence in America. In 2018, Representative Rodney Davis sent a letter to the National Park Service requesting a reconnaissance survey of the site. A reconnaissance survey provides a preliminary assessment– of the national significance, suitability, feasibility, and need for National Park Service management of an area or site proposed for inclusion in the National Park System. The reconnaissance survey found that the site near Madison Street and the 10th Street Rail Corridor, which is the key archeological site associated with the 1908 riot, is likely to meet the criteria for inclusion. It also appears to be a good candidate inclusion in the African American Civil Rights Network. We note that the proposed designation for the site as a “national historic monument” is not a designation that Congress has given previously to any other unit of the National Park System. Should this bill move forward, the Department would strongly recommend that the title of this site be changed to “Springfield Race Riot National Historic Site” or “Springfield Race Riot National Memorial”, designations that are part of the National Park Service’s standard nomenclature. National historic site has been the title most commonly applied by Congress in authorizing the addition of areas that preserve archaeological and historic sites. The title national memorial is most often used for areas that are primarily commemorative, rather than sites or structures historically associated with their subjects. While we recognize the important contribution of these resources related to the Springfield Race Riot of 1908, at a time when the Department needs to devote resources to reducing the National Park Service’s $11.9 billion deferred maintenance backlog and addressing other critical national park needs, it would be difficult to prioritize a new park unit without having a better understanding of how it would relate to other National Park Service resources and needs. The Department urges Congress to pass legislation addressing the deferred maintenance needs of its bureaus. Chairwoman Haaland, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.