6 Powerful Places to Immerse Yourself in African American Heritage
African American contributions to the history and culture of the United States are vast and deeply interwoven in our collective national heritage. Many of our national parks preserve these stories and the places where they unfolded. Some parks tell them as part of the site’s broader chronicle while others were designated to specifically interpret the impact of the events that shaped our history at the site. Immerse yourself in these powerful national parks where African American heritage is preserved and honored.
African Burial Ground National Monument
The discovery of an African burial ground in lower Manhattan was a surprise to the workers who unearthed it in 1991 as they prepared to construct a federal office building. More shocking still was its scope: Hundreds of remains were found dating from the 1690s through 1794. It is estimated that at one time, as many as 15,000 African Americans — many of them slaves — were buried at this site.
Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Heritage Area
Louisiana's Cane River region is a unique place, shaped as much by the river itself as by the many cultures that have settled there. Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Heritage Area preserves the rich heritage of Creole people, a diverse group descended from Native Americans, enslaved Africans, and European settlers of all kinds. The park includes the Oakland and Magnolia plantations, both of which date back to the 18th century.
Natchez National Historical Park
On the banks of the Mississippi River, Natchez National Historical Park preserves sites that reflect every era of American history. It includes the historic home of William Johnson, an African American who was freed from slavery in 1820 at the age of 11 and became a respected businessman before his murder in 1851. Johnson's diary was published in 1951, providing unique and detailed insight into African American life in the 19th century, and his house was opened by the National Park Service as a museum in 2005.
Nicodemus National Historic Site
On the plains of Kansas, Nicodemus National Historic Site preserves the remnants of a town established by African Americans during the period of reconstruction following the Civil War. Kansas was seen as a "promised land" for formerly enslaved African Americans, many of whom headed west looking for a new life after the war. Nicodemus is the only remaining settlement of its kind west of the Mississippi River.
Pullman National Monument
Pullman National Monument became Chicago's first national park unit in 2015, thanks in large part to funding from the National Park Foundation. The monument recognizes and explores the history of the Chicago laborers of all races who worked for the Pullman Car Company during the late 1800s. In an era marred by segregation and poor working conditions, the Pullman Strike of 1894 changed the face of labor in America forever.
Yosemite National Park
African American army regiments, formed after the Civil War and given the name Buffalo Soldiers by Plains Indians, were crucial to westward expansion during the late 19th century. What is not as widely known is that they were also among the first park rangers. In places like Yosemite National Park, Buffalo Soldiers were early stewards of our national parks, blazing trails and building structures that, in many cases, are still used today.
Across the country and throughout our history, the contributions made by African Americans have been a driving force behind American development and innovation. National parks proudly celebrate African American history throughout the year, and these six parks are just some of the places where you can learn about how African Americans helped shaped the United States.