What Does Freedom Mean to You

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Date: June 29, 2012
Contact: Gail Bishop, 850-934-2618

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

Student Art Contest Commemorates 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

Gulf Breeze, FL– Calling all teenage film makers, poets, and photographers! The National Park Service, in partnership with the National Park Foundation's African American Experience Fund, today launched Expressions of Freedom, a nationwide artistic competition to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  

Contest submissions will be accepted from students 13 to 18 years old in three categories – photography, poetry, and digital short films. The first-place winner in each category will receive a $2,500 academic scholarship and the second-place winner will receive a $1,000 academic scholarship. The deadline for entries is October 15, 2012. Details are available at http://www.nps.gov/freedom.

"The issue that was at the heart of the Civil War – the continual struggle for equality for all – remains relevant today," said Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service. "This contest encourages young people to reflect on their own personal meanings of freedom and creatively express those thoughts." 

Expressions of Freedom is designed to connect student artists to the significance of the American Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the system of national parks that commemorate events associated with the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.  

From colonial times to the present, African Americans have contributed to the history of the areas that are now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore in spite of slavery, segregation, and discrimination. With the coming of the Civil War in 1861 and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the military became an avenue of freedom. Many African American men who wanted a chance to fight for their freedom joined the army and navy.On Ship Island, Mississippi, Louisiana Native Guards trained; guarded the prisoner of war camp; and participated in the April 1863 raid on East Pascagoula becoming the first black unit on the Gulf Frontier to meet the enemy in battle.By 1864 Forts Pickens, Barrancas, Advanced Redoubt, and McReethat had been built with slave labor at Pensacola were being guarded by the 25th Regiment, U. S. Colored Troops.Many other regiments of the USCT landed at Pensacola to take part in the Mobile Bay campaign.Where free blacks had not long before left Pensacola to preserve their freedom, now they came to fight for and secure that freedom.

After the Civil War and the end of the Reconstruction Era that continued into the 20th century, the States of Mississippi and Florida imposed segregation laws.This extended to the beaches.Among the few beaches open to African Americans was Rosamond Johnson Beach on Perdido Key, Florida.This beach was named to honor this fallen hero, who at the age of 17 saved the lives of two fellow soldiers fighting in the Korean Conflict and was returning to rescue a third when he was killed on July 26, 1950.Fully integrated troops fought in Korea, but racism was still prevalent.Today because of the civil rights movement and desegregation, people of all races and color enjoy the same unrestricted access and opportunity. The National Park Service added the beach to the national seashore in 1973.


About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 397 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov and www.nps.gov/guis.

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