History & Culture

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park - NPF Photo / Katie Bricker Photography
Reflecting on our past, inspiring our future

America’s national parks preserve our country’s greatest collection of treasures, and the National Park System offers a unique lens through which to view and understand American history and culture. The National Park Foundation (NPF) helps to safeguard the historic sites and collections that hold our shared history, recognizing that our national discourse is ever-evolving to reflect our past, engage the present, and imagine the future.  
With this work, NPF aims to share more comprehensive and inclusive stories that amplify the full range of experience and voices that are woven into the fabric of the United States. Through dynamic educational programs, professional development opportunities, rehabilitation of historic sites, and the preservation – both physically and digitally – of irreplaceable artifacts and places, NPF, together with our partners, remains dedicated to increasing access to places, cultural resources, and stories that help all people gain a deeper understanding of parks as our common ground and shared inheritance.  
By elevating stories of America’s diversity and the fight for equality, meaningful conversations are sparked about our past and the work remaining to achieve a more perfect union. NPF’s History & Culture programs highlight and protect the sites and stories that shape our past, present, and future.

Program Highlights

  • African American Experience Fund – Since the 2001 launch of the African American Experience Fund, NPF has contributed to significant milestones to preserve and share the multi-generational and multi-faceted stories of African Americans in the United States, such as the 2013 establishment of Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, and the acquisitions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in late 2018 and family home in 2019, which will be made accessible to the public for the first time as part of Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park

  • American Latino Heritage Initiative –​ Through the American Latino Heritage Fund, NPF worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to publish the American Latino Theme Study, helping to identify new Latino themed National Historic Landmarks as well as special locations for the National Register of Historic Places. 

  • Women in Parks​ – Launched in 2019, NPF’s Women in Parks initiative funds programs that unearth, preserve, and highlight women’s stories tied to national parks across the country, helping people connect with these stories through physical and digital park exhibits, guided walks, special events, in-park field trips, online content, and more. 

  • NPS Mellon Humanities Fellows – Parks nationwide can engage with a team of academic leaders, thanks to NPF in partnership with NPS and the Andrew W. Mellon Fooundation. Humanities Fellows specialized in the legacy of the civil rights movement, labor history and productivity, gender and equality, and the history of commemoration and memorials are working with parks to bring thoughtful scholarship and fresh historic interpretation to enhance storytelling in exhibits, tours, and more.  

  • Preserving an Important Piece of Labor History – In 2020, NPF provided funding and support for the construction of a new visitor center at the iconic Pullman Administration Clock Tower Building at Pullman National Monument. The site commemorates pivotal moments in the nation’s labor and civil rights history, including the founding of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African American labor union.  

  • Supporting Apprenticeships at San Antonio Missions – In 2020, NPF, in partnership with NPS, Mission Heritage Partners, and American YouthWorks' Texas Conservation Corps, announced its support of four cultural landscape apprentice positions at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park for local Hispanic and Latino young adults. The apprentices will learn a variety of job skills under NPS direction including grounds preservation, maintenance, and landscape bed rehabilitation, and preserving historic acequias (irrigation canals). 

  • Commemorating the Centennial of the 19th Amendment – In August 2020, NPF released the results of a survey underscoring the need for investments in women’s history and preservation efforts. Additionally, NPF announced 23 inaugural grants through our Women in Parks initiative to commemorate the centennial of the 19th amendment, including the preservation of more than 2,200 objects in the collections of the National Woman’s Party, the development of education materials about the life of Carrie A. Tuggle, a prominent civil rights leader, and the collection of oral histories from women working with NPS. 

  • A Beacon of Resilience – In January 2017, NPF’s acquisition of the historic Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in New York allowed NPS to create a new park unit to honor Harriet Tubman and the faith that guided her selfless acts on the Underground Railroad. 


How You Can Help
By donating to the National Park Foundation, you support programs like these that help expand and enhance storytelling in parks across the country through educational programs, preservation of historic sites and artifacts, and increasing access to places and cultural resources.