Thursday, September 21, 2017
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi civil rights sites, including the home of slain leader Medgar Evers, should be considered for national monument designation, the U.S. interior secretary says in a memo to President Donald Trump.
Secretary Ryan Zinke makes the recommendation in a 19-page memo that was leaked.
In the memo, Zinke recommends shrinking six national monuments — mostly large expanses of Western land.
Evers, the state's first NAACP field secretary, organized protests and boycotts to fight segregation. He was assassinated by a white supremacist outside his Jackson home in 1963.
In February, the National Park Service designated the Evers home a national historic landmark.
If the modest ranch-style home becomes a national monument, the federal government will take it over from Tougaloo College, bringing more money for preservation. The private college in Jackson was a haven for civil-rights activists during violent backlash to the movement in the 1960s, and school leaders support the federal role in protecting the historic site.
Mississippi's two Republican U.S. senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, have been working with Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson to make the Evers home a part of the National Park Service. Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Zinke's memo says that a federal spending bill directs the park service to do "resource studies" for Mississippi civil rights sites.
Alan Spears is cultural resources director for the National Parks Conservation Association , a private, nonprofit group that supports the parks. He said there are two ways to establish a national park: through legislation passed by Congress or through the president using a century-old law to establish a national monument.
"In a period where Congress won't act or fails to act, this is a good power for the president to have," Spears said Wednesday.
Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos said if Evers' home becomes part of the National Park Service, it likely will draw more visitors because some tourists make an effort to visit park service sites.
"We're interested in seeing what the president will do with the secretary of interior's recommendations," Gallegos said.