U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (AL-07), Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Martha Roby (AL-02) and Mike Rogers (AL-03) introduced the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Act (H.R. 5989), legislation that would designate the 19 counties in Alabama’s Black Belt as a National Heritage Area. Through public-private partnerships, National Heritage Areas are able to leverage funding for long-term projects that have substantial economic, environmental and community benefits.
“As the birthplace of America’s civil and voting rights movements, Alabama’s Black Belt has played an incredibly important role in shaping our nation’s history,” Rep. Sewell said. “The Alabama Black Belt Heritage Act will help make available more resources to ensure the sites and stories of the civil rights and voting rights movements are preserved for future generations. That preservation will, in turn, provide greater tourism and economic opportunities for residents in the Black Belt. As a proud product of Alabama’s Black Belt, I am honored to be the lead sponsor on this legislation and thrilled to be joined by my Alabama colleagues in this effort.”
“Preserving the rich culture and history of Alabama’s Black Belt is of great importance to the entire state,” said Rep Aderholt. “I commend Representative Sewell for her hard work on this legislation and look forward to the Black Belt joining Muscle Shoals in being designated as a National Heritage Area.”
“I am proud to work alongside my colleagues and others in Alabama by recognizing the Black Belt and its historical significance in our state,” Rep. Roby said. “I look forward to the investments that will continue to greatly impact the region.”
“The National Parks Conservation Association commends Congresswoman Terri Sewell for her leadership in calling for Congress to designate the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area,” said Alan Spears, Senior Director of Cultural Resources for National Parks Conservation Association. “With additional technical assistance from the National Park Service and federal funding, the Alabama Black Belt will be better-equipped to safeguard important ecological and cultural resources for generations to come. We expect this support will generate economic growth for a region rising above hardship.”
National Heritage Areas are established by Congress for the purpose of assisting efforts to protect and promote communities that are regarded as distinctive because of their culture, history, resources and environment. These historic areas are authorized to receive up to $1 million in federal funding annually to preserve, protect and promote important sites. Under the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Act, the University of West Alabama would collaborate with the National Park Service and Black Belt communities to determine a strategic management plan.
Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Doug Jones (D-AL) will lead companion legislation in the Senate.
The Alabama Black Belt Heritage Act is available