President Obama is calling for $50 million to restore national parks sites associated with the civil rights movement to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

ADVERTISEMENT
The president’s budget calls for new investments at a number of historic sites, including those along the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. The president is likely to highlight the request when he visits Selma next month to mark the 50th anniversary of activist marches protesting efforts to prevent blacks from registering to vote.

The protests gave political momentum to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned state and local governments from implementing voting laws that discriminated against minorities, including literacy tests. The law also prohibited certain jurisdictions with a history of disenfranchisement from changing their voting laws without preapproval from the federal government.

Attention has been refocused on the marches since the release of the film “Selma,” which chronicles Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to organize the protests. The president hosted a screening of the movie last month at the White House. Actors including Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo were in attendance, as was Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was severely beaten by Alabama state troopers while participating in the protest.

In addition to the Selma site, Obama’s budget also calls for federal dollars to highlight and restore two historic sites related to the integration of public schools.

The president would give more federal dollars to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, which preserves one of the segregated Topeka elementary schools deemed unconstitutional in the famous court decision. He’d also designate money for Little Rock Central High School, where President Eisenhower deployed the National Guard to protect black students integrating the school.

State, local and tribal governments can also apply for historic preservation funds to help them document and preserve stories and sites associated with the civil rights movement.