Blackwell School National Historic Site
On Monday, October 17, 2022, President Biden signed legislation creating Blackwell School National Historic Site. We offer our thanks to everyone who contributed to the success of this journey. These stories matter, and this history is part of American history.
Over the next months, the National Park Service will take control of the site, bring a century of storykeeping excellence to the Blackwell School. The Alliance will remain as an active partner during the transition, and long after--prioritizing education, outreach, and advocacy.
Preserving historical sites is crucial for future generations to understand and apply the important lessons learned as they shape the next chapter of American history. The Blackwell School in the Big Bend Region of Texas will continue to serve as a symbol of the progress that has been made and what work remains. --Senator Cornyn
The history preserved in our National Park System helps tell the rich story of our country. However, our national parks and monuments do not yet adequately represent the significant contributions, and often painful history, of diverse communities across the country. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Senator Cornyn that would designate one of just a few national park sites that commemorate Latino history. Understanding our nation’s history of segregation and discrimination in places like the Blackwell School that serves as a cornerstone to Mexican heritage, is integral to building a more inclusive and just future in America. -- Senator Padilla
The Blackwell School operated in Marfa, Texas, as a segregated school for children of Mexican descent from 1909 until Marfa schools were integrated in 1965. Yet this is much more than just a local story.
The original historic school building, and grounds on which it stands, provide an authentic setting to commemorate and interpret a time when “separate but equal” dominated our culture in ways currently unknown, and essential to understanding the American experience.
The Blackwell School Alliance has been working 15 years to preserve the stories, legacy, and buildings associated with the Blackwell School. We have partnered with many universities, state agencies, private foundations, individuals, and the City of Marfa to document and promote this important piece of Marfa history.
We have discovered, though, that this is much more than just a local story or a Hispanic story or even a Texas story: this is a truly American story. And as such, the Blackwell School has the opportunity—and the responsibility—to reach a broader audience. We have both a keen interest from our immediate family of former students and the support of partners far and wide to ensure that the Blackwell School will live on in perpetuity.
In addition to supporting important American history, the designation also brings economic benefits. Research shows that every dollar spent managing national parks and public lands generates $4 in economic value. This includes job creation, tourism income, and goods and services. Consider the impact that Fort Davis National Historic Site brings to the neighboring community of Fort Davis. In 2019, 51,000 people visited Fort Davis National Historic Site. Marfa will benefit from a new and sustainable kind of tourism.
News sources have been covering this legislation. See what the excitement is all about:
10/18/2022: National Park Press Release
10/5/2022: NPR's All Things Considered
4/21/2022: Front Page of the El Paso Times!
2/25/2022: Op-Ed in Dallas Morning News
2/3/22: Front Page of the Los Angeles Times!
(if that link won't let you in, try the PDF)
12/15/22: Blackwell School National Historic Act clears US House of Representatives in Big Bend Sentinel
11/24/21: ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA's La Vida with Rebecca Lopez
8/3/21: NPCA Op-Ed in USA Today
7/29/21: Marfa Public Radio Reports on Legislation
7/28/21: Big Bend Sentinel Reports on Legislation
Houston Chronicle: Texas lawmakers seek historic designation for once-segregated Marfa school (reprints: San Antonio Express-News,
Laredo Morning Times)
El Paso Times: Texas lawmakers: Designate segregated Blackwell School in Marfa as National Historic Site
Courthouse News: Proposed Texas Historic Site Would Tell Story of Latino School Segregation
Marfa Public Radio: Marfa’s Blackwell School On Path To Becoming National Historic Site
E&E News: Lawmakers look to designate Mexican American historic site
NPCA: The Complicated History at One of America's Segregated Schools