Federal Task Force Works to Bring New Life to Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail Region - HUD has over $2.8 Million Invested in Effort

[Photo 1: Tent homes to Negro sharecroppers and farm hands]

The tents pictured above were amongst thousands that became home to Negro sharecroppers and farm hands who were forcefully evicted from the lands they worked, by White landowners in retribution for Negro participation in the Selma to Montgomery March that was one of the signature moments that launched the cause of Negro rights in America into the international spotlight. As the federal government became aware of tens of thousands of Negro families left with nowhere to go because of eviction by unscrupulous landlords, the United States Parks Service was ordered to set up the tent cities as temporary housing. In many cases families were forced to live in these tent cities for years, because they had nowhere else to go. This is just one of the stories shared by those for whom the Selma to Montgomery Trail is more than history, it is an important chapter in the story of their own lives. For the senior federal managers who participated in the tour of the trail and had the opportunity to experience the march through the stories of people who had lived the history, it was a rare opportunity to gather as a federal family to achieve a specific goal, and to experience the emotions and the history of a region as a part of learning how to offer assistance. The purpose of the federal task force formed to assist in the revitalization of this historic region, is to bring the resources of all federal agencies that have presence in the region, into one synergistic plan, whose singular goal is economic uplift.

The task force is the vision of Michael Burns, a Senior Manager with the United States Park Service. Mike has been instrumental in working with the communities on the trail to establish the Interpretive Center in Whitehall that the task force visited, and is currently working with the City of Montgomery to create an Interpretive Center in Montgomery, Alabama to capture the history associated with the march as well. Participating federal agencies included: the Environmental Protection Agency; HUD; Maxwell Air Force Base; the Army Corp of Engineers, the United Stated Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor; the United States Park Service; and the Center for Disease Control. The City of Montgomery and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management were amongst the participating non-federal partners.

During this initial meeting each agency identified projects they were currently involved in, or for which funding was being considered for in the region, that could impact the overall revitalization effort. Agencies discussed with each other the possibility of creating matching funding through collaborative efforts. Specific rivers and streams were identified by EPA that they would be doing reclamation work on within the target region. Representatives from the Army Corp of Engineers noted ways in which they could piggy back on the EPA efforts with dredging projects, or other upgrades that would encourage economic development. The creation of a job creating recycling center was discussed and established as a goal. Birmingham Field Office Director, Cindy Yarbrough noted during the meeting that HUD currently had over $2.8 million dollars already committed to ongoing projects within the target zone; including over $1.3 million committed to economic development activities within the zone, $802,678 for the preservation and restoration of Mount Zion Church, as well as $740,685 for infrastructural improvements within the target district.

[Photo 2: The historic Mount Zion AME Church] The historic Mount Zion AME Church was one of the churches where meetings were held regarding the Selma to Montgomery march, as well as a church that was on the trail and that provided meals and other comforts to marchers. The Church had fallen into disrepair, and was in danger of structural collapse, before a restoration began that was funded in large part with HUD Community Development Block Grant funds. With restoration nearly complete the Church stands ready once again to be a vehicle for uplift in the community.

The meeting concluded with a commitment to bi-weekly teleconferences, as well as monthly meetings of the task force to continue and coordinate efforts to impact the region.

For more information on HUD Recovery Program efforts please visit HUD's Recovery Website.


Content Archived: December 20, 2013