Legislation directing the Interior Secretary to create a national network of historic sites and programs connected to the civil rights movement is now in the U.S. Senate.

Congressman Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis)

The House has approved U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay’s bipartisan bill to authorize the National Park Service to establish a program to protect places that were significant in the 20th century civil rights struggle.

Congressman Clay, D-St. Louis, tells colleagues the generation now coming of age “has only scant knowledge” of the history of the civil rights struggle.

“Young Americans find it difficult to believe that racial segregation was once considered normal and necessary in the United States,” Clay says.

Clay’s bill directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to identify and create a national network of historic sites, stories and educational programs connected to the modern civil rights movement. The bill is called the African American Civil Rights Network Act of 2017.

Clay notes that a number of potential sites on the Civil Rights trail are in the St. Louis region, including downtown St. Louis and Jefferson Bank.

During a speech on the House floor, Clay says his legislation is aimed at helping to tell the real history of the civil rights struggle.

“Across this great country, precious historic waypoints along the routes of that still largely untold story are at risk of being lost forever,” says Clay.

Clay says his bill is similar to 1998 legislation that created the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act, which is currently administered by the National Park Service.

Clay, who represents St. Louis City and St. Louis County in the House, says the struggle for freedom and equality “is one of the truly magnificent and heroic episodes of our nation’s history.”

Congressman Jason Smith (R-Missouri)

Clay’s bill, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, is supported by the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Smith serves as the House GOP Conference Secretary.

Clay thanked Congressman Smith during his July floor speech, saying “I appreciate his leadership and true friendship as well.”