U.S. Civil Rights Network Act of 2015
STATEMENT OF PEGGY O’DELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR OPERATIONS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2309, A BILL TO AMEND TITLE 54 UNITED STATES CODE, TO ESTABLISH WITHIN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE THE U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS NETWORK AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
MARCH 17, 2016
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2309, a bill to establish within the National Park Service, the U.S. Civil Rights Network.
The Department strongly supports S. 2309, with amendments.
The NPS would be proud to be part of this program to commemorate, preserve, and interpret this important and inspiring era in American history. Well over a decade ago, the National Park Service and the Organization of American Historians conducted a theme study that helped to identify and interpret sites associated with the modern Civil Rights movement. From this effort, NPS found that a number of sites related to the African American role in the Civil Rights movement had not been recognized, with many in immediate danger of being lost or destroyed. If enacted, S. 2309 would provide a structure to identify and commemorate the activities and sites of African Americans involved in the Civil Rights movement and create a framework that could promote public education regarding this crucial chapter of the American story. This bill would allow NPS to build critical partnerships with other public and private entities, to raise public awareness, and help preserve the remaining sites and stories of the Civil Rights movement.
The modern Civil Rights movement arose in the face of systematic oppression, discrimination, and violence. The figures of this movement fought against these forces and many deservedly have become national heroes. But this movement was also powered forward on the backs of ordinary men and women and their efforts and stories are equally important to preserve and share. These stories and sites can be found in almost every community in this nation, some of which are deeply interwoven into the narrative of the units of the National Park System. But most of these resources are cared for outside of the National Park System and often need further documentation, interpretation, identification, and protection.
No single site reflects the full story of the role of African Americans in the Civil Rights narrative, and a network would to help recognize and preserve these places. With the creation of the U.S. Civil Rights Network, the NPS will be directed to produce and share educational materials, become part of cooperative agreements to provide much-needed technical assistance, and create an official symbol to help with the identification of these sites and stories. This network will be made up of existing units and programs of the NPS; Federal, State, local and privately owned property, and other governmental and nongovernmental facilities that are directly related to the African American role in the Civil Rights movement.
The fundamental purpose of the U.S. Civil Rights Network Act is to honor the courage and sacrifice of those African American champions for justice; those who fought against discrimination and segregation to bring forth the vision laid out in the very foundations of our national doctrine that all men and women are created equal. We must honor their legacy and continue to carry forward their work of national reconciliation and social justice.
To that end, we recommend changing the title of the network to the African American Civil Rights Network to avoid any confusion as to the bill’s purpose or the potential sites that would be eligible to participate. We would be pleased to work with the committee on the amendments need to implement this change.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you or the other members of the subcommittee may have