Arkansas tourism officials are joining a group of other Southern leaders to push for “world heritage status” for Central High School in Little Rock and various other civil rights heritage locations in the U.S. The designation would broaden marketing opportunities worldwide through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In addition to Central High School, a national historic site, another 15 sites in eight states would be among the landmarks being considered for the designation status. They include:
- Bethel Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.
- Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka, Kan.
- Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala.
- Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Ala.
- Foster Auditorium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
- Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse and Greyhound Bus Station, Montgomery, Ala.
- The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
- International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Greensboro, N.C.
- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Atlanta, Ga.
- Medgar Evers House, Jackson, Miss.
- National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tenn.
- 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.
- Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Tuskegee, Ala.
- Historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.
“If successful, this initiative would provide Arkansas its first UNESCO World Heritage designation, a status global tourists consider to be a ‘bucket list’ to visit,” said Joe David Rice, Tourism Director for Arkansas Parks & Tourism.
“Obtaining UNESCO designation is a multi-year process, but the international recognition and increased awareness will definitely help increase tourism,” said Gretchen Hall, President & CEO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Currently, there are only two UNESCO World Heritage Site designations in the Deep South – Everglades National Park (Florida, 1979) and Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point (Louisiana, 2014).
Other World Heritage Site designations include Great Britain’s Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, and the Great Wall of China. Other U.S. sites include the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and the Statue of Liberty.
Over the course of a multi-year nomination process, all of the sites – including Little Rock – will be evaluated for inclusion in the heritage proposal. Additionally, the review will evaluate the potential economic impact of the designation.
Little Rock Central High School, where the Little Rock Nine made history desegregating the school in 1957, is one of the most visited Little Rock landmarks. Nearly 126,000 people toured the site in 2015.