‘It’s a beautiful day to be in Birmingham, Alabama’ – notes from the Secretary of the Interior’s visit to the AG Gaston Motel

Senator Deb Haaland talks about her visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Monument. (Olivia Moses/Bham Now)

On a blustery Wednesday afternoon, also known as February 16, Home Secretary Deb Haaland traveled to Birmingham to not only take a tour of Birmingham’s civil rights history, but also to witness the progress of the historic AG Gaston Motel.

Here are his thoughts on why Birmingham is such an important part of this nation’s history.

Keepers of America’s History

As part of a multi-state tour, Secretary Deb Haaland and Rep. Terri Sewell started the day in Selma, Alabama, crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but traveled to Birmingham to close out the day.

We were lucky enough to attend the press conference the National Parks Service was having right in the middle of the half-renovated AG Gaston Motel and had the opportunity to hear their views on the history of rights civics in Birmingham. After Mayor Woodfin and the Deputy Regional Area Director for the Parks Service spoke, Seventh District Alabama Representative Terri Sewell spoke.

I often say that we are just the keepers of America’s history. We do not own this history. This is America’s story. It’s black history, but it’s definitely American history. We couldn’t preserve it without the amazing National Park Service and the Department of the Interior. This district has received more than $12 million in funding through the National Park Service Civil Rights Sites Historic Preservation Grants.

– Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama State

With these grants, state officials were able to restore historic civil rights landmarks such as 16th Street Baptist Church and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Looks like we have Secretary Haaland to thank for that.

why is it important

AG Gaston Motel
Secretary Haaland’s team goes upstairs to tour the war room. (Olivia Moses/Bham Now)

After Secretary Haaland was introduced by MP Sewell, she said a few words about the history of the South East. Having herself grown up in New Mexico, she became one of the first two Native American women elected to the United States Congress. She mentioned having a deep appreciation for the struggles black people have and are currently facing due to the challenges she has overcome.

“As a Native woman, as an American citizen, I have an obligation to make sure that I know my American history and a lot of it is here in the South. I’m so honored to be here, to have made the rounds, to have heard the stories of the foot soldiers who were there during turbulent times and who were inflicted with violence just for wanting to vote.

-Deb Haaland, Secretary, Home Office

She goes on to say that the projects we see all around us in Birmingham are all worthy of taxpayers’ money because they tell America’s story.

After concluding his speech, Haaland and his team visited the War Room, a special place in the AG Gaston Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth met to discuss important issues at the time. civil rights.

What’s next for the AG Gaston Motel

AG Gaston Motel
1968 Wing and courtyard of the Motel AG Gaston. (Olivia Moses/Bham Now)

The City of Birmingham has invested $10,000,000 in restoring the historic AG Gaston Motel. Through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, an additional $1.1 million in grants has been applied to renovations to the motel, the key historic site of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. This monument is in conjunction with the National Park Services and was recognized as President Obama’s last acts in office in 2017.

The motel’s 1958 wing was renovated in the spring of 2021 and completed with the lighting of the historic sign. Now the 1968 wing and courtyard are nearing completion, estimated June 2022 according to Mayor Woodfin. Plans include indoor dining and cafe

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