President Obama declares Alabama civil rights district a national monument

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives to speak to mayors from around the country, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — President Barack Obama is designating the historic civil rights district of Birmingham, Alabama, a national monument.

In one of his last acts in office, Obama signed an order Thursday placing the district under the oversight of the National Park Service.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument includes a now-abandoned motel where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. planned demonstrations against legalized racial segregation in 1963.

It also features a park where African-American protesters were met by police dogs and fire hoses, the church where four black girls died in a Ku Klux Klan bombing, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Separately, the Park Service announced grants totaling more than $500,000 benefit the area.

Two other sites, in east Alabama and coastal South Carolina, also were set aside as national monuments linked to equal rights.

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