BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - President Barack Obama has signed a presidential proclamation designating the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.
The move makes Birmingham's Civil Rights District part of the National Park System.
The City of Birmingham and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, a Birmingham Democrat, led efforts to secure the designation.
Mayor William Bell and activists from Birmingham's civil rights era gathered at the 16th Street Baptist Church to celebrate the announcement.
It caps years of work to include some of Birmingham's most historic sites in the park system.
Receiving the designation is expected to attract more tourists. In addition, the city has transferred a portion of the A.G. Gaston Motel to the National Park Service, required for such designations. The district maintains its autonomy and normal, everyday function, but receives technical and maintenance assistance, marketing and assistance from park rangers.
Mayor Bell has previously said the historic monument designation will provide opportunities for federal and private grants to encourage investment and development in the areas surrounding the civil rights district, including the historic 4th Avenue Business District.
Earlier Thursday, the National Park Service announced funding for 39 projects in more than 20 states to preserve sites related to the civil rights movement.
The 16th Street Baptist Church was granted $500,000 for "preservation, repair and restoration."
The City of Anniston received nearly half a million dollars for a Freedom Riders National Monument.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will receive $47,000 for "Preservation Leadership Training at the Gaston Motel."
Sewell released the following statement about the announcement:
Governor Robert Bentley released this statement about the designation: