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Dear Chairmen Reed and Calvert and Ranking Members Murkowski and Moran - Allow Completion of Carter G. Woodson Historic Site Project in D.C.

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators asking them to fully fund the Preisdent's fiscal year 2014 budget request of $3.2 million for the Carter G. Woodson historic site project in the District of Columbia. The funding would rehabilitate the historic Carter G. Woodson Home as a national tourist site and educational facility. Norton has been pressing for sufficient funding for the project since the passage of her 2003 bill, the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site Act, that designated the home and the adjoining Association for the Study of African American Life and History headquarters, located in the District's historic Shaw neighborhood, a National Park Service (NPS) site. Even after ten years, Norton said NPS was unable to provide an accurate total cost or timeline estimate for the completion of the project. Frustrated by the long delay, Norton wrote to President Obama to ask that appropriate officials be directed to give the project priority for completion.

"I am grateful to President Obama for his response, with $3.2 million in designated funding for the Carter G. Woodson home," said Norton. "This new landmark site has important meaning for a nation that celebrates Black History Month every February. Dr. Woodson not only is responsible for the designation of this annual commemoration, but his own scholarly work was fundamental to the creation of Black history as a serious academic discipline."

The full text of Norton's letter follows.

November 18, 2013

Dear Chairmen Reed and Calvert and Ranking Members Murkowski and Moran:

I write concerning the Carter G. Woodson historic site project in the District of Columbia. We have been trying for many years to get funding for this project. I very much appreciate that the Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related agencies recommended full funding of the President's request of $3.2 million for National Capital Parks-East to rehabilitate the historic Carter G. Woodson Home in its fiscal year 2014 explanatory statement for its draft bill. If the Senate and House negotiate a regular fiscal year 2014 Interior Appropriations bill, I ask that you fully fund the President's request of $3.2 million for the Carter G. Woodson project.

As you know, Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926, which has evolved into Black History Month, commemorated at the White House and throughout the United States annually. Dr. Woodson, only the second African American to receive a Harvard PhD, is one of the most distinguished American historians and the central figure credited with rescuing the history of African Americans at a time when racist propaganda asserted that Blacks were inferior and had no substantive history beyond slavery. Dr. Woodson's home served not only as the site where he produced monumental work, but also as the headquarters for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the organization that Dr. Woodson founded. The Association will be located on the rehabilitated site to conduct research and facilitate interpretation of Dr. Woodson's achievements.

In 2003, Congress passed my bill, the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site Act, to make Dr. Woodson's home and the home of the Association, located in the historic Shaw neighborhood of the nation's capital, a National Park Service (NPS) site in the National Park System. Since then, I have been working with NPS to rehabilitate and establish the home as a national tourist site and educational facility honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Woodson.

A lengthy delay was initially caused when the owners asked an exorbitant price for two adjoining properties necessary to accommodate visitors and space to display the educational materials and artifacts from Dr. Woodson's life and work. I wrote to NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis to request a detailed analysis of the work that needs to be completed and a timeline for completion. I received a reply from NPS Acting Regional Director Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini dated November 21, 2012, stating that NPS "cannot accurately estimate the timeline or total cost for the rehabilitation of the Woodson Home at this point." I believe this response was due to years of cuts in NPS funding.

Disappointed that I had been unable to get NPS to give sufficient priority to a project of such significance, I wrote to the President on December 19, 2012, to ask him to ensure that the appropriate officials develop a strategy and timeline for completing the Carter G. Woodson project and to designate this project for the high priority it deserves in his fiscal year 2014 budget. I appreciate the President's request of $3.2 million, and I ask that you fully fund this request if the House and Senate negotiate a regular fiscal year 2014 Interior Appropriations bill.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton


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