President Barack Obama on Thursday designated three new national monuments honoring civil rights history in an effort to “ensure that more of country’s history will be preserved and celebrated.”
The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument will protect important landmarks from the civil rights movement, including the A.G. Gaston Motel, an “epicenter of Birmingham’s civil rights protests and demonstrations.” It also safeguards the 16th Street Baptist Church, which the Ku Klux Klan bombed in 1963 during the height of desegregation. 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.
“These monuments preserve the vibrant history of the Reconstruction Era and its role in redefining freedom,” the president said in a statement. “They tell the important stories of the citizens who helped launch the civil rights movement in Birmingham and the Freedom Riders whose bravery raised national awareness of segregation and violence. These stories are part of our shared history.”
Another, called the Reconstruction Era National Monument in Beaufort, South Carolina will protect areas near the first site where “formerly enslaved people could begin integrating themselves into free society,” the White House said.
All three sites will be protected under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
Obama has frequently turned to the act to solidify his conservation legacy. Just last month, he set aside 1.35 million acres of federal land, including areas important to Native American communities, in Utah and Nevada. The president has protected more public land and water than any of his predecessors.
Thursday’s announcement also included the expansion of the California Coastal National Monument. It will now include six additional areas that contain “significant scientific or historic resources that are closely tied to the values of the monument.”