WASHINGTON – A black youth group Friday called for the creation of a national civil rights monument to help educate the public about a movement that some history books have failed.
“There are monuments going up all around us” commemorating and reminding people of important historical events, said Chapman Flowers Jr., a 22-year-old Georgetown law school student and chairman of the New Black Leadership Council. But, he said, “We don’t have a monument for something as important as integrating schools and events that changed the nation during the civil rights movement.”
Of the more than 110 statues, monuments and memorials in the District supported by the National Park Service, four are dedicated to some aspect of African-American history, said spokeswoman Sandra Alley.
Two are in Lincoln Park. They commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s role in the emancipation of slaves and Mary McCloud Bethune’s role in empowering black youths through education.
Two additional memorials have been approved by Congress but are yet to be funded and constructed, Alley said. They will commemorate black soldiers in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
None focus on the civil rights movement, Alley said.
Flowers said a civil rights monument is particularly important to young people who may not be learning about the civil rights movement because of old and inadequate text books and high school teachers ill-trained in black history.
“Where do students learn?” he asked.
Alvin Thornton, a member of the Prince George’s County School Board and a political scientist at Howard University, agreed in a telephone interview some textbooks are inadequate because they give only a cursory view of “acceptable black leaders,” not a full history.
But he added that a national museum, complete with resident scholars and research facilities, would go further in educating Americans in black history.
Norman Hill, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, which is a sponsor of the youth council, said the monument drive is also designed to help young black leaders learn how to lobby and create relationships with black members of Congress.
Hill and Flowers said that relationship would create an important bridge to other projects important to youths.
Members of Congress invited to Friday’s announcement, including Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., told the council they were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
Flowers said he was “troubled that more leaders didn’t show up,” but added, “I have hope” there will be better attendance in the future. The council announced its creation Friday, the last day of Black History Month. Its members include black student leaders in U.S. universities and members of established black leadership groups, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Council of Negro Women and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, named for the black labor leader and civil rights activist. -30-