Oct 18, 2022
WASHINGTON - On Monday, October 17, President Biden signed the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act, designating a U.S. conservation area managed by the National Park Service at the Blackwell School in Marfa, TX. This historic designation recognizes the segregation of Hispanic and Latino children at public schools during the Jim Crow era. Now preserved are the original 1909 schoolhouse and a 1927 classroom building, with their contents of artifacts including photographs and interpretive panels featuring the words of Blackwell School students and teachers. The Blackwell School National Historic Site is the second national park unit to recognize contemporary U.S. Hispanic and Latino history (the first being the César E. Chávez National Monument which just celebrated its 10th anniversary since its designation in 2012).
In response, GreenLatinos and the National Parks Conservation Association issue the following statements:
“The Blackwell School is the last standing site to tell present and future generations of the atrocities that Latino students faced due to segregation in public schools. At this site and thousands like it during the Jim Crow era, children were forced to assimilate into Anglo ways of being and were punished, even violently, for using their languages. But as a Blackwell School fourth grader famously said, “Nadie me va a quitar que hable el español” (nobody will take away from me that I speak in Spanish), so these stories will live on. We applaud this student, her peers, and the generations of community in Marfa that preserved the Blackwell school through the 20th and 21st centuries to ensure that the alums and families of the Blackwell School can heal from the traumas of segregation and racism in our public school system. For the first time, our National Park Service can teach Americans and public land visitors that segregation directly harmed Latino and Hispanic families. Now our nation can more properly address past and present racism and fully heal from the historical traumas of segregation. This is how public lands can ensure all have equitable opportunities to thrive,” said Olivia Juarez, Public Land Program Director of GreenLatinos.
“What is so inspirational about the Blackwell School National Historic Site is that this story could have ended entirely differently. Given some painful memories of discrimination and segregation in this three-room schoolhouse, alumni would have been well within their rights to let it crumble into ruin. After all, that has been the fate of many such segregated schools and other difficult pieces of American history.
Instead, the students of Blackwell committed themselves to preserve their school so future generations could learn from the complex history contained behind its century-old adobe walls. They painstakingly cataloged their fond memories of the playground, marching band and their beloved teachers, as well as the darker ones, like being paddled for speaking their native language. They joined national park advocates across the country in calling on Congress to designate their school a national historic site and protect it for good, so that America could remember and learn from this chapter of our history. The President signed a law to ensure that Blackwell students’ efforts to protect this vital piece of Mexican American history were not in vain. With a stroke of his pen, he directed America’s greatest storyteller, the National Park Service, to safeguard the Blackwell School National Historic Site from harm and teach visitors from around the world about this little-known chapter of our country’s history. This national park site will be a testament to the resilience of Mexican American communities in our country’s borderlands, and the immeasurable impact they have had on the United States of America. The Blackwell School belongs as a national park site because Mexican Americans belong here in our country,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association.