The Legacies of African Americans
African Americans’ contributions to the history and culture of the United States are deeply interwoven in our collective national heritage. An understanding of the comprehensive and multi-faceted story of our country's history requires learning and honoring the roles and contributions of African Americans within this country. From Africans that were enslaved and brought to the United States over 400 years ago, to the inspiring African American leaders of today, our national parks preserve and share important stories.
Historically, African American stories and experiences haven’t been at the forefront of United States history. Within the National Park System, there are sites that primarily and secondarily preserve and incorporate these stories. African American history and culture is highlighted at Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s historic home office in Washington, D.C., Nicodemus, a Reconstruction-era Kansas town, and the Robert E. Lee Memorial, where freed and enslaved African Americans established a community on the same land in which they were enslaved. New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park in Boston, which tells the story of America’s whaling industry, also shares the life of a young Frederick Douglass, who worked on the city’s wharves. And Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, which preserves Louisiana’s history, culture, and communities, shares the story of Ruby Nell Bridges Hall, the first African American child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School at just six years old. African American stories are entwined in the past and present histories of the over 400 national parks across the country.
Reflecting Our Past, Inspiring Our Future
The history and preservation of our national parks are key to having meaningful conversations. National discourse is ever evolving and expanding to reflect on our past, engage in the present, and reimagine our future. There are over 400 parks in the National Park System and every park has the opportunity to incorporate African American history, culture, and contributions. The National Park System offers a unique lens, reflecting the diversity that has come to define American history and culture.
Then, Now, and Beyond
The National Park Foundation has been investing in the preservation of African American history and culture through national parks for nearly 20 years. Through its African American Experience Fund, launched in 2001, NPF contributed to significant milestones like the establishment of Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. Building on this support, the National Park Foundation is expanding its investment in this space to ensure that African American stories are shared, preserved, and honored through parks in ways that connect and inspire current and future generations.
By supporting dynamic educational programs, professional development opportunities, the rehabilitation of historic sites, and the preservation – both physically and digitally – of irreplaceable artifacts and places, the National Park Foundation and its partners are dedicated to increasing access to places, cultural resources, and stories that help all people gain a deeper understanding of the contributions of African Americans.
How You Can Help
The National Park Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, welcomes your support of this important initiative. Our national parks have long relied on private philanthropy in addition to federal funding to protect parks and make them accessible to all. This public-private partnership underscores the belief that our parks are our common ground and shared inheritance.
- Give today. By supporting the National Park Foundation, your donations will go to the park programs that most need help. The National Park Foundation will be able to work with the National Park Service and park partners to assess needs and to provide funding for these efforts. Your generosity is essential to protecting these treasured places for current and future generations.
- You can join this movement by fundraising with the National Park Foundation. You can even set up a fundraiser on social media. Your support will be essential in protecting these treasured places for future generations.
- You can also support the parks as you Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque. Beyond the most iconic national parks, there are lesser-known national parks with equally scenic vistas, as well as parks where American history was made. From the desk of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, father of African American History to the posts of Buffalo Soldiers of Company L. – some of the first park rangers serving in Alaska – you can discover the stories of African Americans in parks across the country.