Biden’s signature yesterday brings the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act to fruition, designating the Blackwell School site of Marfa, Texas, as the next American site to become part of the National Park Service (NPS).
“This designation will permanently protect the site for future generations,” NPS states Tuesday. Specifically, NPS hopes to “help tell the history of Texas school districts that established separate elementary schools for Mexican American children through the practice of de facto segregation” through Blackwell School’s designation.
‘As a nation, we must face the wrongs of our past in order to build a more just and equitable future’
“As a nation, we must face the wrongs of our past in order to build a more just and equitable future. The ugliness of the segregation era had many impacts that we have failed as a nation to adequately acknowledge,” adds U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “This new designation will help us tell a truer American story. And ensure this important and painful chapter in our nation’s history is preserved and remembered for the generations to come.”
National Park Service Director Chuck Sams also hopes to teach future generations with our most powerful tool: the lessons of our past. “It is our solemn responsibility as caretakers of America’s national treasures to tell the whole story of our nation’s heritage for the benefit of present and future generations,” Sams offers through NPS’s media release.
In addition, “The National Park Service will continue working closely with key stakeholders dedicated to the preservation of Blackwell School,” Sams says, “ad those directly impacted by the de facto segregation of Mexican Americans during the early 1900s, to preserve and interpret this significant historic site to the public.”
National Park Service Denotes Blackwell School’s Addition as ‘Important Step’ in ‘Telling a More Complete History’ of America
NPS manages multiple sites throughout America that preserve and share the stories of 500 years of Hispanic and Latino history. Now, “The designation of the Blackwell School National Historic Site is an important step in telling a more complete history of the Mexican American students who received education at the site,” their release continues.
Blackwell was a Texas school built in 1909 specifically to segregate Mexican-American students. Today, the grounds consist of this original adobe schoolhouse and a smaller 1927 classroom building, the Band Hall. Each structure contains photographs, memorabilia and interpretive panels featuring quotes and stories from students and teachers who lived through segregation.
Blackwell is currently open to the public, but with limited hours and services. Management by the Blackwell School Alliance creates current hours of operation. This local non-profit, founded by Blackwell School alumni for the purpose of preserving the school, will continue to manage the site until NPS acquires the property.
When they do, it is Blackwell will likely take on more accommodating hours for the public. This is at least a year off into the future, however. NPS must first work with the Town of Marfa to acquire the lands intended in Tuesday’s designation.
Once NPS completes the necessary land acquisitions, Blackwell School will become America’s latest National Historic Site.
For more on how historic sites factor into the National Park System, see our How Many U.S. National Parks Are There? Hint: Way More Than 63 next.