House Passes Black-Heritage Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — A proposal to create a national museum to recognize contributions of black Americans gained ground Tuesday as the House passed a bill to begins planning for the monument.

The measure, passed by voice vote, creates a presidential commission to handle planning and logistics for a National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

The 23-member commission would essentially be charged with creating a blueprint for the museum's eventual completion, lawmakers said.

Black lawmakers have long pushed for the museum. The commission, which would issue a report within nine months, is the closest to reality the proposal has come.

``I think the time is long past for a national African-American museum right here in our capital city,'' said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. Lewis has introduced legislation to establish a black heritage museum every year for the last 12 years.

``This presidential commission is a step, a necessary step in the right direction to preserve the rich history of African-Americans,'' said Lewis, a major civil rights leader during the mid-20th century era of protests.

Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., co-author of the proposal with Lewis, said the museum's ``existence would serve a needed purpose by demonstrating the significance of African-American history to American history.''

Members of the Senate have yet to take up the bill, but Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., others have advocated the museum's creation.

Lawmakers have said they would like to use the Smithsonian Institution's Arts and Industries Building already on the National Mall for the museum.

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