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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: Senators Webb, Landrieu Reintroduce Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Act

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Senators Webb, Landrieu Reintroduce Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Act

WASHINGTON, DC –Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) today reintroduced the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Act, which aims to ensure suitable commemoration for Civil War's 150th anniversary. The bill is supported by a dozen national historical preservation groups.

“As someone with ancestors who fought on both sides of the American Civil War, its 150th Anniversary has personal significance,” said Senator Webb. “It is important that all Americans remain aware of the many sacrifices made by soldiers and civilians on both sides, and of the long-term impact of the Civil War on our country. The intention of this commission is to ensure the proper recognition of the sesquicentennial, building upon previous legislative efforts to support education and commemoration of this turning point in American history.”;

"We must remember the legacies of the Civil War," said Sen. Landrieu. "The United States emerged completely altered after the four years of struggle, and as a testament of American resilience, grew stronger than it was before. The cultural and political ramifications still shape the American landscape today. It was in the era of Reconstruction that Congress adopted the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution, acknowledging black Americans as free and equal citizens of the United States. The Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Act of 2011 is about preserving that memory."

Senator Webb has been a leader in the Senate on a number of measures to protect and expand Virginia’s battlefields and national parks, provide federal designations for historic sites, and to maintain current landmarks. Passage of his ‘Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act’ in 2009 re-authorized the American Battlefield Protection Program through 2014, and his advocacy has helped save more than 16,500 acres in 14 states.

Consisting of 25 members from government, business and academia, the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission will work together with state and local governments, as well as various organizations, to develop and assist with commemoration activities.

Text of the letter of support from key historic preservation groups appears below:

The Honorable Jim Webb
U.S. Senate
Senate Russell 248
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Webb:

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our support for legislation to establish a commission to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. This federal commission will serve as a helpful tool in the efforts already underway by states, localities and the National Park Service to promote the 150th anniversary of the conflict. In addition, the funding that would be provided as a result of this legislation would help ensure the sesquicentennial anniversary leaves a legacy of lasting educational value through the development of new scholarship, academic programs and curriculum, as well as the preservation of key battlefield lands that serve as outdoor classrooms for current and future generations of Americans.

The American Civil War was a defining experience in our national history, and its legacy continues to exercise a tight hold on the imaginations of millions of Americans. The Sesquicentennial of the Civil War will begin in earnest with the 150th anniversary of the opening guns in April 2011, a date that is fast approaching. Unfortunately, at present, there is no federal commission to coordinate, help fundraise and assist with the Sesquicentennial commemorations being planned by states. The absence of a federal commission could result in a piecemeal commemoration that lacks cohesion and inclusion on a national level.

Our generation has been given a rare moment during which to explore the legacies of the Civil War and Reconstruction and in the process better understand how the events of that era shape contemporary issues such as federalism, contested regional heritage, race, and civil rights. These last two are especially salient topics for consideration, for the years of the Sesquicentennial—2011 through 2015—coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of many of the signature events of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Although time is running out—with the anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter just a few months away—we believe that with your timely leadership, Americans across the country will work to create a meaningful commemoration that will empower America’s communities of historians, educators, preservationists, librarians, and archivists to present educational and commemorative activities for children and adults alike to the lasting benefit of all Americans.

For these reasons, we support the creation of a federal commission to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the provisions for adequate funding to provide opportunities for lasting legacies of educational value. We believe that the creation of a federal commission is essential to the creation of a meaningful commemoration on the national level. A thoughtful engagement of this important anniversary at the national level will be to the ultimate benefit of all Americans.

Thank you for your consideration. Please let us know if you or your staff has any questions.

Respectfully submitted,

American Association of Museums
American Association for State and Local History
Association for the Study of African American Life and History
Civil War Trust
Federation of State Humanities Councils
History Channel
National Coalition for History
National Council on Public History
National Council for the Social Studies
National History Day
Society for Military History
Southern Historical Association


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