National Parks Associated with African Americans: An Ethnographic Perspective


Click on the map to explore national parks associated with African Americans.

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    Brown V Board of Education National Historic Site, KS

    This site commemorates the Supreme Court decision that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The site includes Monroe Elementary, the all-African American school that Linda Brown attended. From Segregation to Preservation, an article from CRM magazine, discusses the Monroe Elementary site and cultural resources at civil rights monuments. The school is also a stop on the National Register of Historic Places travel itinerary for the civil rights movement.

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    Central High School National Historic Site, AR

    This unit is a national emblem of the struggle over school desegregation. In 1957, three years after school segregation officially ended with Brown V. Board of Education, nine African American students, later known as "the Little Rock Nine", were denied entrance to Little Rock High School (now Central High School). Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the African Americans from entering the previously all-white high school. President Eisenhower intervened after Faubus recalled the guards and the students were attacked by an angry and violent mob of white students, parents, and white supremacists. Eisenhower ordered desegregation of the school under the supervision of the National Guard and the students entered the building surrounded by troops. Although violence and other roadblocks continued to plague the desegregation of the Arkansas school system, this event was a major step because federal support was lent to the cause. 1997 was the 40th anniversary of the events at Central High School. This site is a stop on the National Register of Historic Places travel itinerary for the civil rights movement.

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    Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, OH

    Paul Laurence Dunbar, a prominent poet of the 19th-century, is commemorated in a unit of Dayton Aviation Heritage NHP where Dunbar House stands. Dunbar's poems and other works were innovative because of his ability to write in standard English and the African American dialect of his age.

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    Fort Larned, KS

    This fort was used during the period of the Indian Wars (1867-69) by Company A, Tenth Cavalry, Buffalo Soldiers, sent here to guard the Santa Fe Trail. African Americans were formed into units in 1866 and sent West to make way for new settlers by fighting Native Americans, forcing them onto reservations, and generally maintaining order. The African American soldiers were nicknamed Buffalo Soldiers by the Southern Plains Indians out of respect and because the soldiers' hair reminded the Indians of the hair between a buffalo's horns.

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    Fort Smith National Historic Site, AR, OK

    African Americans, as well as Cherokees, Chicasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles from the southeast, were resettled in this area after the Afro-Seminole Wars in the 1830s. During the Civil War, Fort Smith was the headquarters for units of the U.S. Colored Troops and the Union Indian Brigade. Following the Civil War, hundreds of African Americans served as Deputy Marshals in Arkansas. One example was George Winston, bailiff for the federal court at this fort from the 1870s to 1893.

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    George Washington Carver National Monument, MO

    The birthplace and childhood home of George Washington Carver, a great scientist, educator, and humanitarian, was the first park dedicated to the commemoration of a notable African American. Carver was born into slavery on this plantation. He was a determined learner, becoming the first African American student at what is now Iowa State University and later the first African American faculty member at this institution. Having completed his master's degree, he became a teaching assistant at Tuskegee Institute under Booker T. Washington. Carver is best known for his agricultural research and development of patents that helped southern farmers, and for promoting harmonious inter-racial relationships. The park holds an annual celebration, Carver Day, in July with special interpretive events to mark the occasion.

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    Homestead National Monument of America, NE

    This monument is a memorial to pioneers, African Americans among them, who settled the West under the Homestead Act of 1862. George Washington Carver was a homesteader in addition to being an educator, inventor, and researcher at Tuskegee Institute.

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    Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, MO

    Although African Americans often are not associated with Western expansion, it is thought that one of every three cowboys were either African American, Hispanic, or American Indian. Many African Americans explored the frontier, including York who traveled with Lewis and Clark. African American soldiers called Buffalo Soldiers also played an important role in Western expansion by removing American Indians to reservations and generally maintaining law and order. Museum Programs at Jefferson National Expansion is a discussion from CRM magazine on how this park teaches African American themes.

    Nearby, Old Courthouse was the location of the first two Dred Scott trials (1847, 1850) in which Scott sued unsuccessfully for freedom. Slave auctions were also held at this location.

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    Nicodemus National Historic Site, KS

    African Americans settled this town on homestead land in Graham County around 1870. Many African American pioneer settlements formed in Kansas between 1870 and 1881 by men and women fleeing post-Reconstruction economic and social oppression in former Confederate states. Nicodemus NHS includes the First Baptist Church building established in 1877 on the present location. Although a new sanctuary was built in 1977, this "Old" Baptist church is still used for special culturally significant events. The park holds an annual Homecoming for former residents, descendents of settlers, and others interested in the town's history and resources.