Obama protects southern civil rights sites as national monuments

For years local supporters have signed petitions urging President Obama to give Caster Ranger the National Monument status to preserve and protect it.

President Barack Obama expanded the California Coastal National Monument through use of the Antiquities Act, the 1906 law allowing presidents to designate public lands as national monuments to protect their significant natural, cultural, or scientific features. Aside from the Grand Canyon, other national monuments include the Petrified Forest in Arizona; Muir Woods in California; and New York's Stonewall Inn, where the modern movement for gay rights began in 1969.

A downtown section of Birmingham, Ala., including the church where four black girls were killed in a Ku Klux Klan bombing in 1963, has been declared a national monument by President Obama. The Freedom Riders National Monument will honor the 1961 rides through the Deep South with the protection of a Greyhound station in Anniston, Alabama, where a bus was firebombed.

The third civil rights monument has several sites in Beaufort, South Carolina, where emancipated slaves created a community during the Reconstruction era.

In addition to these three newly established monuments, Obama also expanded two existing spots in California and OR, the California Coastal National Monument and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, originally established by former President Bill Clinton.

Of course, getting a national monument designation takes time.

The monuments were created to tell the stories of civil rights leaders from Birmingham and Freedom Riders whose bravery raised national awareness of segregation and violence.

"By designating the Cotoni-Coast Dairies as part of the National Monument, we can be sure that the many cultural, spiritual and natural resources of this area will be protected in perpetuity", chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Val Lopez said in a statement. Obama's selections, by contrast, have included a monument to Latino farmworkers in California; a stop along the Underground Railroad in Maryland; and the Stonewall Inn in NY, an important site for the gay rights movement. "My heart is overflowing with joy and happiness that this day, this president has given acknowledgement to the fact that so many people made sacrifices for all of us, including him, that this community should be recognized as part of the national park service monument program". That, or just get ready for the Big, Beautiful Border Wall National Monument. They will now be overseen by the National Park Service, and become eligible for federal support.

The first monument, established as the Reconstruction National Monument, pays tribute to the Reconstruction Era that followed America's Civil War. President Obama's executive order will ensure that the fight for equal rights in the City of Birmingham will forever be cemented in the annals of our democracy. Environmental rights groups, however, applauded the expansions as a means to preserve these areas' exceptional biodiversity.

  • Rogelio Becker