US House passes legislation to create Black Belt National Heritage Area—what this means

Edmund Pettus Bridge
The Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama—part of the Black Belt region. (The Bama Buzz)

A bill introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell to create the Black Belt National Heritage Area passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday.  Keep reading to learn more.

Big News

Introduced by Sewell in May 2021, this legislation would designate areas within the 19 counties in Alabama’s Black Belt as a National Heritage Area. Alabama Congresspeople have been trying to establish the Black Belt as a National Heritage Area for years.

Making the Black Belt a National Heritage Area will designate the area as a place “where historic, cultural and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes” under the National Park Service.

The Black Belt, named after its rich soil, has a deep history of people, places and events that impacted the nation. According to Sewell’s statement, as the birthplace of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights movements, the Black Belt is where some of the most consequential chapters of American history played out. 

What this means

National Heritage Area
The counties in the Black Belt area. (University of Alabama Center for Economic Development)

National Heritage Areas are established by Congress for the purpose of protecting and promoting communities that are regarded as distinctive because of their culture, history, resources, and environment.

According to a statement from Sewell, any place that is designated a National Heritage Area by Congress is eligible for up to $1 million in annual federal funding.

“This designation will not only help preserve the rich history of the region, but will also open up new economic and tourism opportunities. As a proud daughter of the Black Belt, I thank my colleagues for passing this critical bill and will continue working to get it signed into law.”

Terri Sewell, United States Representative

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Callie Puryear
Callie Puryear
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