You may have seen in the Clarion-Ledger that the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, was in Jackson recently to announce the addition of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers House to the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Network. This network includes both NPS sites and non-NPS sites and is important as a guide to tourists who want to follow a particular theme in history in their travels, but it doesn’t really carry any funding associated with it beyond marketing.
Here’s part of the Department of Interior’s press release:
WASHINGTON – Recognizing the immense impact that Medgar Evers’ life and Myrlie Evers’ contribution had on the African American civil rights movement, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today designated the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home as an official African American Civil Rights Network (AARCN) site. The home, which is located in Jackson, Mississippi, is the fourth site to be designated under the African American Civil Rights Network Act, which was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump in January 2018. The network includes historic locations that tell the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. Secretary Zinke made the announcement at the historic home, which has been owned and preserved by Tougaloo College since the 1990s, and was joined by members of the Evers family including Medgar’s brother, Charles, his daughter, Reena Evers-Everette, as well as Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Senator Roger Wicker, and Tougaloo College President Dr. Beverly Hogan.
About the African American Civil Rights Network Act of 2017:
This law requires the Department of the Interior to establish within the National Park Service (NPS) a U.S. Civil Rights Network that encompasses: (1) all NPS units and programs that relate to the African American civil rights movement from 1939 through 1968; (2) with the property owner’s consent, other federal, state, local, and privately owned properties that relate or have a verifiable connection to such movement and that are included in, or eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places; and (3) other governmental and nongovernmental facilities and programs of an educational, research, or interpretive nature that are directly related to such movement.
A little lost in the articles I’ve seen is the more important news that Zinke also announced, which is that a 30-day public comment period is now open regarding making the Evers House a National Monument and thereby bringing it into the National Park system.
Those comments can be addressed to NPS, as noted on their press release:
The National Park Service (NPS) is seeking public comments on three potential national monument designations: the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home, Jackson, Mississippi; Mill Springs Battlefield, Nancy, Kentucky; and Camp Nelson, Nicholasville, Kentucky.
Medgar Evers was an important national figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The assassination of Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963, in the carport of his home, was one of the catalysts for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both Medgar and Myrlie, his wife, were major contributors to advancing the goals of the civil rights movement on a national level.
. . .
The Antiquities Act has been used to preserve and protect natural and cultural resources on Federal lands for future generations. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act in 1906 providing a foundation for natural resource conservation and cultural preservation. A potential National Monument designation of these sites through the Antiquities Act may serve to preserve their nationally significant historic resources.
Charles Laudner, Senior Advisor
Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240.
Phone (202) 513-7212
If the property were to become a National Monument, it would be the only National Park Service site in Jackson. NPS management would bring national and international recognition to the site, and visitors would not need to make an appointment to tour the house, as they do now. Tougaloo has done a great job the last 25 years saving and restoring the house, and the tours by Minnie Watson are amazing, but making it a national monument would be a huge step in ensuring it is preserved and opened for future generations.
Other NPS sites in Mississippi:
- Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site
- Gulf Islands National Seashore
- Natchez National Historical Park
- Natchez Trace Parkway
- Shiloh National Military Park
- Tupelo National Battlefield
- Vicksburg National Military Park