Georgia State Leads Effort to Submit Civil Rights Sites for World Heritage Recognition

Georgia State University has recently received a $600,000 grant from the Alabama Tourism Department to develop a serial nomination of U.S. Civil Rights sites to be submitted to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage list.

“We’re creating a list of what are the most significant sites that tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement,” said principal investigator Glenn Eskew. “We’re bringing scholars and historic preservationists together who can evaluate the sites and consider their integrity and importance in telling the story of the movement because a lot has changed in the 50 years since the Civil Rights Movement.”

Superintendent Judy Forte of the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site discusses with Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell and Georgia State University Professor of History Glenn T. Eskew the possibilities of tours taking place at Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church during the upcoming World Heritage and U. S. Civil Rights Sites Symposium to be held in the new GSU Law School over April 20-22, 2017.

Superintendent Judy Forte of the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site discusses with Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell and Georgia State University Professor of History Glenn T. Eskew the possibilities of tours taking place at Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church during the upcoming World Heritage and U. S. Civil Rights Sites Symposium to be held in the new GSU Law School over April 20-22, 2017.

Through the World Heritage list, UNESCO works to identify, protect and preserve the cultural heritage and integrity of sites around the world that are considered to have outstanding universal value.

“Outstanding universal value is a very high criteria,” said Anne Farrisee, who works with Eskew to manage the program in the Department of History. “We can talk all day about how important something is in the U.S., but in this case it’s only a part of the story. The global impact of these sites is what is important for this designation.” 

Along with Eskew and Farrisee, Timothy Crimmins of the Center for Neighborhood and Metropolitan Studies, Richard Laub of the Heritage Preservation Program, Jacqueline Rouse of the History Department and Akinyele Umoja of African-American Studies also serve on Georgia State’s World Heritage team.

More than 50 civil rights sites are under consideration for the nomination, including Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. A final list, however, has not been finalized.

On April 20-22, the team will host the World Heritage and U.S. Civil Rights Sites Symposium, a gathering of property owners, scholars and historic preservationists to discuss and evaluate the sites under consideration.

By the end of 2018, Eskew and Farrisee hope to submit a tentative list of sites to the United States National Park Service for review. If they are successful, it will take several more years to develop the full World Heritage nomination to file to submit to UNESCO.

Current World Heritage sites in the United States include the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, San Antonio Missions, the Grand Canyon and the Everglades.