Moments of Change

Change shapes the natural and cultural world around us. Nature evolves constantly. One season leads to another. Waters ebb and flow. These changes in turn affect plants and wildlife. People also create change through their actions, sometimes making history. National parks allow nature’s changes to happen and capture the stories of the effects of change on our nation. Explore these stories of change in national parks.

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Explore moments captured in our national parks that changed history or the natural world in significant ways.

Journey Through the Video

The formation of the canyon rocks began two billion years ago and were transformed into one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders in a brief span of time, relatively–speaking. Geologists estimate the Grand Canyon was carved by a river beginning 5-6 million years ago, a mere blink of an eye in geological time. Celebrate the park’s 100th anniversary in 2019.

One powerful voice can guide a national movement and inspire change for generations. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most prominent voices of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, bringing calls for equality and hope of a greater nation for all people that have resonating impacts today.

A surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, propelled the nation into a world war. In the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it became known as “a date which will live in infamy.” On June 6, 1944, 75 years ago this month, Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day, signaling the beginning of the end of World War II.

As the longest day of light in the year, the solstice on June 21 marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere. Seasonal changes influence all forms of life at many parks like Death Valley National Park and the ways we enjoy the great outdoors in the warmer summer months.
Out of a revolution, the United States of America was signed into existence in the rooms of Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1776 through a declaration of independence. A bold group of representatives risked their lives to unite colonies into a new nation inspired by the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.
After two years of a devastating civil war without end in sight, President Abraham Lincoln addressed the nation at the dedication of a national cemetery on the site of the bloodiest battle on American soil. Remembered as the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln’s brief speech reminded Americans why the conflict was necessary to achieve our nation’s values of liberty and freedom to all people.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, activists fought for women’s right to vote. The National Women’s Party organized a national movement for suffragism a block away from the US Capitol and Supreme Court. The race for states to ratify the 19th Amendment of the US Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote began on June 4, 1919, and successfully passed in August 1920.
In the 1960s and 70s, César Chávez mobilized farm workers across the country into a union to improve working and living conditions and wages for millions of American farmers. The farm worker movement expanded from its early roots as the country's first permanent agricultural union to also become a national voice for the poor and disenfranchised.
In June of 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire a few miles north of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The fire was fueled by oil and debris in the water. While not the first fire to occur on the river, this fire caught national attention and prompted environmental change, inspiring the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the first Earth Day celebration to recognize the need for better environmental stewardship.
An uprising in response to a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969, gained momentum as a movement to bring the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people into a national discussion. The riots inspired LGBT people and supporters throughout the country to organize and continue the conversation about equal rights and treatment for the past 50 years.
Black and white photo of firefighters fighting a fire on a river Several kayakers on a shallow river
The infamous Cuyahoga River Fire in Cleveland, Ohio on June 22, 1969, capped decades of fires on the river, like the one in 1952. It caught the nation's attention and sparked action in the environmental movement to protect the nation's waterways. Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection
After fifty years of improved environmental stewardship, the Cuyahoga River offers enjoyable recreational opportunities and safer habitats for wildlife. NPS / D.J. Reiser

Milestone Moments in June

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    Last updated: June 23, 2020