Date: February 1, 2021
WASHINGTON - From Fort Monroe and Camp Nelson to Pullman, Tuskegee and Selma, centuries of the African American experience are woven throughout America’s national parks. The National Park Service invites you to join us in honoring the contributions and struggles of African Americans by drawing inspiration and lessons from the places where history happened.
Meet Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History
Before Dr. Carter G. Woodson, there was very little accurate written history about the lives and experiences of Americans of African descent. The Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site preserves his home, which was the epicenter of the Black history movement, and remains the headquarters of his organization—today known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In addition to creating and fostering the annual commemoration, Dr. Woodson wrote and edited numerous books about African and African American history and collected a vital repository of historical materials and artifacts. Kids can download and complete the park‘s Junior Ranger activities.
Travel on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
The Network to Freedom program consists of more than 650 sites in 39 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands that have a connection to the Underground Railroad. The program promotes the legacy of the brave people who resisted enslavement through escape and flight, and the idea that all human beings have the right to self-determination and freedom from oppression. Starting on Feb. 15, a new video series will highlight stories from the nation’s first Civil Rights Movement. In honor of Presidents’ Day, the first episode will feature Rutherford B. Hayes, who prior to serving as the 19th President of the United States, worked as an attorney who defended freedom seekers in court.
Go on a Field Trip without Leaving Home
The National Park Service offers hundreds of distance learning opportunities, including curriculum-based lesson plans, remote field trips, guest speakers and art projects related to African American history and culture. The popular Passport To Your National Parks® Cancellation Stamp Program has also gone virtual. Take an online tour of a national park with African American connections such as Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site or Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial then download a free cancellation stamp. Kids can also download and complete fun and educational Junior Ranger Programs that are loaded with self-guided activities.
Dive with a Purpose
Biscayne National Park in Florida annually hosts the international Dive with a Purpose organization to train young divers (16-23 years old) from diverse backgrounds to become stewards of submerged cultural heritage preservation with a focus on the African Diaspora. The group’s recent surveys at Biscayne have focused on finding evidence of the pirate slave ship Guerrero, which wrecked in 1827 with 561 enslaved Africans onboard. This effort is part of the larger Slave Wrecks Project, amplifying the study of sunken slave ships, while building capacity for research and education in maritime archaeology of African American history and culture.
Visit the Newest National Park
The Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Mississippi was the home of civil rights leaders. The tragic assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963 for his efforts to promote racial equality and social justice was a key catalyst for the passage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the nation reacted in horror to his death. The home is an important addition to the National Park System and the African American Civil Rights Network, which strives to tell an inclusive and complete history of our country. Other recent additions to the National Park Service include Reconstruction Era National Historical Park and Pullman National Monument.
Ride with the Buffalo Soldiers
After the Civil War, the U.S. Army established several all-Black regiments known as “Buffalo Soldiers” to help rebuild the country. In addition to their military duties, the Buffalo Soldiers served as caretakers of national parks. They fought wildfires, curbed poaching, prevented illegal grazing and constructed roads, trails, and other infrastructure. In 1903, Captain Charles Young led a company of Buffalo Soldiers in Sequoia and General Grant (now Sequoia and Kings Canyon) National Parks and made vast improvements including new roads to the Giant Forest and to the base of Moro Rock. Learn more in this month’s National Park Getaway to Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.
Tap into the Power of Parks for Health
Green space is some of the best medicine available. Time in nature is good for overall physical, mental and social wellbeing. Head to a nearby park, playground or trail to get some exercise or simply relax and soak in the surroundings. There are more than 400 national parks throughout the country, with at least one in every state, providing close-to-home opportunities for healthy activities and outdoor enjoyment.
Study Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
The National Park Service has awarded more than $60 million in grants to HBCUs to preserve historic structures on campuses, many of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service also has a HBCU Internship Program that places students in parks to help with the protection of natural and cultural resources, and introduces them to the variety of career opportunities related to public land management. The Mosaics in Science Program provides meaningful and relevant science-based internships for racially and ethnically diverse undergraduate and graduate students, and recent graduates from any school.
Hear about the “The Agitators”
Listen to a new podcast series made in partnership with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and PRX. Learn why Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony teamed up to advocate for voting rights. Black women and men were instrumental in the women’s suffrage movement and faced challenges helping others realize the fight was as much about race as it was gender.
Discover the National Register in your Neighborhood
There are more than 95,000 properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Just about every county in the country has at least one site in the Register. Many listings are related to notable African Americans, including Marian Anderson, John Coltrane, Langston Hughes, Arna Wendell Bontemps and Paul Laurence Dunbar.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 423 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 on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Last updated: February 1, 2021