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story.lead_photo.caption Little Rock Central High School

In Arkansas' capital city on Sunday, U.S. Reps. French Hill and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy praised federal legislation that expands the boundaries of the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

The legislation, signed into law by President Donald Trump in January, adds seven South Park Street houses sitting near the school to the boundaries. It also empowers the secretary of the Interior Department to reach "cooperative agreements" with the homeowners to help preserve the site.

"South Park Street made history in September 1957, and we want people, who come from all over the world here to learn what happened in the American civil-rights movement, to be able to experience South Park Street just as the Little Rock Nine did," said Hill, a Republican from Little Rock.

The Senate passed the legislation late last year, after it cleared the House last fall in a 390-0 vote.

According to Hill, McCarthy was essential to getting floor time to have the debate and gaining approval for the legislation.

"Education is the great equalizer, and for so long it wasn't. And this transformed it," McCarthy, a California Republican, said of the Little Rock Central High crisis.

Hill said people connect the civil-rights movement with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery.

"But if you talk to John Lewis, our colleague in the House, it's the Little Rock Nine that inspired him to be involved in the civil-rights movement," Hill said.

"The strength of those nine are up there with everybody else," McCarthy said, speaking at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Visitor Center.

Joyce Matthews owns one of the houses on Park Street and said she bought the house in 1972. She said she moved out in 1989 but started to live full time at the residence once again in 2010.

Matthews said the homes are well built and, if maintained, could last 100 more years like other buildings in the city.

"This neighborhood, it needs to stay a neighborhood. It shouldn't be a McDonald's," she said.

People who visit the location, she said, enjoy a residential scene. Her house, built in 1905, predates the Little Rock Central High building, she said.

Information for this article was contributed by Frank E. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 05/21/2018

Print Headline: 2 lawmakers tout additions to historic site; Hill, McCarthy make visit to Little Rock's Central High area

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