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A "More Inclusive National Park System": Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument Open Access

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Monuments work to sculpt public memory and identity, as the commemorative process naturalizes certain historical narratives. National monuments managed by the National Park Service (NPS) fold the spaces that they memorialize into the United States’ national identity. For much of U.S. history, national monuments predominantly protected sites of natural value. However, in recent years, there has been a shift in the narratives included at NPS sites to reflect a more inclusive American history. President Barack Obama in particular used national monuments to steer the National Park Service toward diverse storytelling. In 2017, President Obama designated Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument to commemorate the civil rights movement in Birmingham and the U.S. more broadly. This research analyzes Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument’s history, designation process, as well as the effects of its status as a national monument on local stakeholders and civil rights sites in order to understand the Park Service’s method of diversifying the park system through expansion and the aftermath of a monument designation on the local landscape.

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