President Barack Obama officially designated the Pullman Historic District as a “National Monument” yesterday in a ceremony in which he delivered remarks at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy on Chicago’s south side community, reported DNAinfo.com. For President Obama, it was personal. And special.
“This is special for me. This exit right over here, either 111th or 115th – depending on what was going on that day – I took that just about every day for about three years. I drove by this site every day on my way to Holy Rosary Church – where my first office of my first job in Chicago was. Right across from the park. This was Mendel (a high school now closed) then,” said Obama.
He added, “This is the neighborhood where I made lifelong friends. This is the area where I became a man. I learned so much about love and work and loyalty and friendship.”
Obama also talked about this area being the first African-American labor union, founded by A. Philip Randolph, who founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. A. Philip Randolph, was the first to speak at the March on Washington in 1963, said Obama. “There’s a reason why I’ve got one of the original copies of the program for the March on Washington, a march for jobs and justice, with A. Philip Randolph’s name right there as the first speaker, framed in my office.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the president at the event. “Today, we take another giant step forward in Pullman’s promise. Pullman will now belong not to all of Chicago, but to all of America.” He quickly added, “Please welcome my friend, Chicago’s favorite son, the president of the United States, Barack Obama.”
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), whose 2nd Illinois’ Congressional district includes the newly-designated Pullman historic site, was “thrilled” and “excited.”
“This is a great day for Pullman. I’m exceedingly excited, and personally proud, to represent the Pullman community in our nation’s capital. Today, February 19, 2015, is the day that many of us have dreamed about – and talked about – for years, even decades,” said Rep. Kelly. “Pullman National Monument will be a crown jewel of the community, a remarkable achievement made possible only through the cooperation and collaboration of leaders from the public and private sectors and the residents of the neighborhood. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many, the history and legacy of Pullman will endure for generations to come and people from all over the country will be encouraged to visit and learn more about the vital role Pullman played in our nation’s labor and civil rights history.”
Last year, Rep. Kelly introduced H.R. 3929, the Pullman National Historical Park Act. She said at the time that a National Monument “will create a wonderful tourist attraction in the area that will be a local job creator as well as a boon for the national economy.” In fact, according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), designating Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood as a national historical park will attract more than 300,000 visitors each year, create 350 jobs annually, $15 million in annual wages, and sustain $40 million in economic activity, mostly due to visitor spending.
Pullman National Monument has already raised nearly $8 million in support thanks to gifts received by the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service.
In addition to Mayor Emanuel and Rep. Kelly, President Obama was joined on stage for the designation signing by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Chicago 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Michael Shymanski, founding member of the Historic Pullman Foundation.
President Obama also announced that he was launching an “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that will provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year.
He also announced the creation of two other National Monuments across the country. He announced a designation of Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii, the site of an internment camp where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II, and Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado, an historic site of extraordinary beauty with world-class recreational opportunities that attract visitors from around the globe.
The President used the Antiquities Act, which was first exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Since then, 16 presidents have used this authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients.
With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 16 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.
The Every Kid in a Park initiative is a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors. More than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that young people now devote an average of more than seven hours a day to electronic media use, or about 53 hours a week – more than a full time job.
America’s public lands and waters offer space to get outside and get active, and are living classrooms that provide opportunities to build critical skills through hands-on activities. To inspire the next generation to discover all that America’s public lands and waters have to offer, the Obama Administration will provide all 4th grade students and their families free admission to all National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year, starting with the 2015-2016 school year. The initiative will also:
• Make it easy for schools and families to plan trips: The Administration will distribute information and resources to make it easy for teachers and families to identify nearby public lands and waters and to find programs that support youth outings.
• Provide transportation support to schools with the most need: As an integral part of this effort, the National Park Foundation (NPF) – the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service – is expanding and re-launching its Ticket to Ride program as Every Kid in a Park, which will award transportation grants for kids to visit parks, public lands and waters, focusing on schools that have the most need.
• Provide educational materials: The initiative will build on a wide range of educational programs and tools that the federal land management agencies already use. For example, NPS has re-launched a website with over 1,000 materials developed for K-12 teachers, including science labs, lesson plans, and field trip guides. And a number of federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Education, and NPS participate in Hands on the Land, a national network of field classrooms and agency resources that connects students, teachers, families, and volunteers with public lands and waterways.
Pullman National Monument in Illinois:
This monument will preserve and highlight America’s first planned industrial town, and a site that tells important stories about the social dynamics of the industrial revolution, of American opportunity and discrimination, and of the rise of labor unions and the struggle for civil rights and economic opportunity for African Americans and other minorities. The 203-acre site includes factories and buildings associated with the Pullman Palace Car Company, which was founded in 1867 and employed thousands of workers to construct and provide service on railroad cars. While the Pullman Company employed a mostly white workforce to manufacture railroad passenger cars, it also recruited the first porters, waiters and maids from the population of former slaves to serve on its luxury cars. Though lower-paying, these service jobs held prestige in the African-American community and played a major role in the rise of the African-American middle class and, through an historic labor agreement, the development of the civil rights movement of the 20th Century. The historic labor movement organized by A. Philip Randolph in the 1930s to win rights for these porters, waiters and maids ultimately created the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first labor union led by African Americans to receive a charter in the American Federation.
The National Park Foundation today announced that nearly $8 million dollars has already been raised to support the monument, which will be Chicago’s first National Park Service unit and will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.
Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado:
This monument will protect a stunning section of Colorado’s upper Arkansas River Valley. Located in Chaffee County near the town of Salida, Colorado, the 21,586-acre monument features rugged granite cliffs, colorful rock outcroppings, and mountain vistas that are home to a diversity of plants and wildlife, including bighorn sheep and golden eagles. Members of Congress, local elected officials, conservation advocates, and community members have worked for more than a decade to protect the area, which hosts world-class recreational opportunities that attract visitors from around the globe for hiking, whitewater rafting, hunting and fishing. In addition to supporting this vibrant outdoor recreation economy, the designation will protect the critical watershed and honor existing water rights and uses, such as grazing and hunting. The monument will be cooperatively managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and USDA’s National Forest Service.
Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii:
This monument permanently protects a site where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II. Located on the island of Oahu, the monument will help tell the difficult story of the internment camp’s impact on the Japanese American community and the fragility of civil rights during times of conflict. Honouliuli Internment Camp, located in a steep canyon not far from Pearl Harbor, opened in March, 1943 and was the largest and longest-used confinement site for Japanese and European Americans and resident immigrants in Hawaii, eventually holding 400 civilian internees and 4,000 prisoners of war. The camp was largely forgotten until uncovered in 2002, and the President’s designation will ensure its stories are told for generations. The monument will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.