Evaluating Lynching Locations (ELL) for National Park Sites Act STATEMENT OF KYM A. HALL, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, 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. 7912, THE EVALUATING LYNCHING LOCATIONS (ELL) FOR NATIONAL PARK SITES ACT. JULY 14, 2022 Chair Neguse, Ranking Member Fulcher, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 7912, the Evaluating Lynching Locations (ELL) for National Park Sites Act. The Department supports the goal of increasing public understanding of the history of lynching and other incidents of racial violence against Black communities but would appreciate the opportunity to work with the bill sponsor to better understand the scope and context of H.R. 7912 and potentially recommend amendments before the Committee acts on this bill. We would like to note that there are currently 21 previously authorized studies for potential units of the National Park System, potential new National Heritage Areas, and potential additions to the National Trails System that have not yet been transmitted to Congress. H.R. 7912 would direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of sites within 100 miles of Memphis, Tennessee, at which lynchings took place, to determine the suitability and feasibility of establishing these sites as a unit of the National Park System. These sites include, but are not limited to, the lynching sites of: Wash Henley in 1869; Christopher Bender and Bud Whitfield in 1868; Thomas Moss, Will Stewart, and Calvin McDowell in 1892 during the event referred to as “The People’s Grocery Lynchings”; Lee Walker in 1893; Warner Williams, Daniel Hawkins, Robert Haynes, Edward Hall, John Hayes, and Graham White in 1894; Ell Persons in 1917; Jesse Lee Bond in 1939; and Elbert Williams in 1940. The bill contains standard language for special resource studies that are to be conducted by the National Park Service (NPS). The Equal Justice Initiative, in their report Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, notes: “During the period between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized Black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. These lynchings were terrorism. “Terror lynchings” peaked between 1880 and 1940 and claimed the lives of African American men, women, and children who were forced to endure the fear, humiliation, and barbarity of this widespread phenomenon unaided.” The report continues: “Very few public commemorations of African Americans’ suffering during the post-slavery era exist today. Formal remembrances of national racial history tend to celebrate the civil rights movement’s victories, focusing on individual achievements and success stories rather than reflecting on the deeply rooted, violent resistance that upheld the racial caste system for so long. Honoring civil rights activists and embracing their successes is appropriate and due, but when they are not accompanied by meaningful engagement with the difficult history of systematic violence perpetrated against black Americans for decades after slavery, such celebrations risk painting an incomplete and distorted picture.” The NPS’s Reconnaissance Survey of Selected Civil Rights Sites in Phillips County, Arkansas, published in 2019, centered on events related to the Elaine Massacre of 1919, and included a discussion of the documentation and commemoration of sites related to the themes of lynching and racial violence. The reconnaissance survey noted: “Many of the race riots from [the late 19th and early 20th century] have been credited for playing a role in the birth of the civil rights movement. While much important scholarly work has been done about the history and context of many race riots from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, little of that work has focused on the physical remains and landscapes of those events.” “…themes of racial violence are underrepresented among resources preserved and interpreted for public understanding. The preliminary inventory of sites related to late 19th and early 20th century race riots illustrates that sites preserving resources relating to those events and providing public access and education are very rare.” The Department appreciates the opportunity provided by H.R. 7912 to increase public awareness and engagement with this painful but important chapter in our nation’s history. As previous NPS studies and independent reports have noted, there are limited sites and resources specifically dedicated to preserving and interpreting themes of racial violence for public understanding. The NPS is committed to advancing racial equity and support for underserved stories and communities and will continue to support efforts to better tell the story of lynching and racial violence against Black communities. We look forward to working with the sponsor and the Committee to make progress in providing the public a better understanding of this tragic period. Chair Neguse, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.