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Terri Sewell

Obama adds Alabama civil rights area to Park Service

President Barack Obama signed an order Thursday designating an historic civil rights district in Alabama as a national monument, placing several blocks of a city once rocked by racial violence on par with landmarks including the Grand Canyon.

The National Park Service will now have oversight of a downtown section of Birmingham, Alabama — a focal point of civil rights struggles in 1963 against harsh enforcement of laws mandating racial segregation.

Obama, who leaves office next week after serving eight years as the nation's first African-American president, acted after Congress failed to approve legislation proposed to bring the several-block area into the federal...