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Congressional delegation unites for Heritage Act

Four members of Alabama’s congressional delegation – Democratic U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell and Republican Representatives Martha Roby, Robert Aderholt and Mike Rogers – joined forces Friday to introduce the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Act, which would designate the 19 counties in Alabama’s Black Belt as a National Heritage Area.

Alabama has a total of seven representatives in the House – Republican Representatives Bradley Byrne, Mo Brooks and Gary Palmer were not listed as sponsors of the bill.

Such areas, through public-private partnerships, are “able to leverage funding for long-term projects that have substantial economic, environmental and community benefits,” according to a press release from Sewell’s office.

“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,” 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. The preservation will, in turn, provide greater tourism and economic opportunities foir 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.”

Under the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Act, the University of West Alabama (UWA) would work with the National Park Service and communities across the Black Belt to establish a strategic management plan, which will find ways to utilize the up to $1 million in annual federal funding that such historic sites are authorized to receive to preserve, protect and promote important sites.

“Preserving the rich culture and history of Alabama’s Black Belt is of great importance to the entire state,” Aderholt said. “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.”