WASHINGTON, D.C. – Black History Month, which this year carries the theme “Black Women in American History and Culture,” is the perfect opportunity to learn about the significant contributions African Americans have made to American history. With 25 national park units dedicated to the telling of this vital piece of our country’s past, the National Park Foundation's African American Experience Fund (AAEF) is encouraging all Americans to plan a visit this month or any time throughout the year. To help plan the perfect experience, AAEF is releasing a list of just some of the exceptional ways to engage with our national parks:
African Burial Ground National Monument (New York)
Take part in a discussion with Councilwoman Debi Rose, the first African American elected official on Staten Island on Tuesday, February 21 at 1pm. For a complete list of Black History Month events at this site, visit http://www.nps.gov/afbg/upload/AFBG_BlackHistoryMonth2012.pdf.
Boston African American National Historic Site (Massachusetts)
“Men of Color to Arms!” - The Story of the 54th Regiment
Join us for this unique look at the 54th Regiment, the first northern black regiment to fight in the Civil War. Through their bravery and heroism in battle, the 54th paved the way for more than 180,000 African Americans to serve in the Union Army, helping to secure victory and the end of slavery in the United States. Thursday, February 9 at 6 pm. For more information visit http://www.nps.gov/boaf/index.htm.
Every Saturday in February the park will offer free screenings of films highlighting the African American community such as "The Princess and the Frog" , "The Long Walk Home", "To Kill a Mocking Bird", and "Remember the Titans". All movies are appropriate for families and start at 2 PM. Following the movies, there will be group discussion on the significance of the movie to the African American community and society as a whole.(In honor of Black History Month, the park is offering free bus service for any school group interested in visiting the park. Interested teachers and schools should contact the park for more details).
George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)
“Coffee with Carver” - February’s conversation is The Tie That Binds, a look at the influence of Mariah Watkins on young George Washington Carver’s Christian faith. A park ranger will give a short talk, followed by a “how to” on family genealogy and the task of tracing George Washington Carver’s roots. Bring a friend and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee. This program, for ages 18 and up, is free of charge and no reservations are required. Thursday, February 16 at 10am inside the visitor center.
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Virginia)
Students from the Prince George High School Drama Club will present “Voices Of Our Past: From Civil War To Civil Rights,” character interpretations of persons involved in the American Civil War and the American Civil Rights Movement. These young performers will illuminate the lives and the times of Richard Eppes, Elizabeth Van Lew, William Lloyd Garrison and Maggie L. Walker, just to name a few. The hour-long program is presented in partnership with Petersburg National Battlefield Park and Prince George High School. Saturday, February 25 at 2pm.
Come learn more about world renowned African American artist Faith Ringgold through an interactive advanced art workshop conducted by Gina Marie Lewis. Participants ages 8-11 will learn about artist Faith Ringgold and create collages on famous female civil rights leaders. After the workshop, participants will tour the home and the National Archives of Black Women’s History and view an original quilt made by Faith Ringgold. The viewing will be facilitated by NPS site curatorial staff. Reservations required. Saturday, February 18 at 1pm.
Nicodemus National Historic Site (Kansas)
Explore a photographic display of “The Politicians of Nicodemus” throughout the month of February at the park visitor center.
“I ask all of you to make it a priority to go and visit these sites where history actually happened,” said Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine and African American Experience Fund board member. “We are so fortunate that these historical treasures have been preserved and it is our collective responsibility to learn and encourage others to learn about the untold and undertold stories of African American’s contributions to American history.”
AAEF has identified 25 National Park Service sites that tell the African American story. Several of these sites highlight the contributions of African American women including the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Virginia), honoring the life of the first woman in the United States to charter a bank; the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site (Washington, DC), honoring an educator and the first African American female presidential advisor; and the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (Arkansas), honoring the nine brave African American students, which included five women Minnijean Brown Trickey, Elizabeth Eckford, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Melba Pattillo Beals and Gloria Ray Karlmark, who desegregated Little Rock Central High School. These sites are a vital piece of American history represented by the nearly 400 national parks that make up the national park system.
“Our national parks are rich with African American history and Black History Month is a time to reflect on the important role that African Americans have played in U.S. history, and celebrating African American’s contributions in our national parks is a natural fit,” said B. Smith, national spokesperson for the African American Experience Fund.