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African American History & Our Parks

Historically, stories about Black heritage, culture, and community have been missing or excluded from the American story. A growing number of national park sites are now preserving and elevating 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 outside of 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 & 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.

NPF's Work in this Space

NPF has been investing in the preservation of African American history and culture through national parks for over 20 years.

  • Close up of a blue biplane with yellow wings
    Fund II Civil Rights Historic Preservation
    A partnership between NPF and Fund II Foundation, the program is helping preserve the historic resources in parks that protect and share the stories of civil rights throughout the history of our country.
  • Vintage typewriter and sheets of paper sit on a large wooden desk.
    National Park Service Mellon Humanities Fellowships
    NPS Mellon Humanities Fellowship program supports the work of humanities scholars whose research and analysis of the complex and fascinating histories in and around our parks helps us discover untold perspectives and new voices.
  • A group of people stand on rocks among a forest
    NPF’s ParkVentures program supports equity-focused outdoor leaders and organizations by providing grants for projects and activities that focus on representation, accessibility, and interpretation.
  • A street lamp outside a split level brick home
    African American Experience Fund
    NPF’s African American Experience Fund raises funds and establishes partnerships that support park sites and projects that tell the stories of African Americans.
  • Exhibits along the wall of the Pullman visitor center
    Inclusive Storytelling
    Inclusive Storytelling grants support contemporary research in parks, as well as projects that transform this research into relevant interpretative products – from interpretive park programs and exhibits to websites and videos.

Recent Projects

Explore just some of the projects supported by NPF that help preserve and share African American history and culture.

Rows of wooden chairs, bolted into the floor and all pointed towards an elevated platform. Above are fans and lights and the wall is lined with tall, narrow windows.
Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument
Preserving Civil Right Sites
Preserving Civil Right Sites
In 2023, NPF, in collaboration with NPS, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, and other partners, helped establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument. NPF facilitated the acquisition and renovation of the Tallahatchie County Courthouse — a crucial site in civil rights history — aiming to make significant civil rights history accessible through the monument’s three key locations, including support for digital storytelling, community engagement, and restoration efforts.
Learn More about Preserving Civil Right Sites
  • Various exhibits inside a historic red brick building
    Pullman National Historical Park
    Supporting New Parks
    NPF has provided $10 million to support Pullman National Historical Park since 2015, supporting the revitalization of the site and improvements to the grounds and historic buildings and the construction of its visitor center.
  • An arch winds over a steel bridge, over a river
    Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
    Commemorating Voting Rights at Selma
    NPF enabled Selma to Montgomery to acquire six properties near the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL for a $20 million John Lewis Voting Rights Center, commemorating the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. NPF purchased the properties from the Alabama Department of Transportation and donated them to NPS.
  • Three-story yellow townhouse with green trim
    Carter G. Woodson Home National Monument
    Expanding Parks
    Following the restoration of Carter G. Woodson’s Washington, D.C. home, NPF and Fund II provided a grant to restore two neighboring homes for visitor contact and interpretation purposes, as well as a grant to fund the fabrication and installation of exhibits at the park.
  • Cozy library with book-lined shelves and a small wooden desk
    Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
    Welcoming Visitors
    With a multi-year grant, NPF and Fund II are providing funds to produce a new orientation film for Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and a comprehensive planning process for the park. Additionally, NPF supported renovations at Frederick Douglass’s home by funding the design and installation of a critically needed HVAC system inside the home.
  • Street-level view of a two-story yellow home with dark brown trim. A sidewalk with a few steps leads up to the covered porch of the house, past an even green lawn trimmed with a low hedge
    Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
    Preserving Historical Places
    NPF helped NPS to acquire MLK Jr’s life and family homes, personal property items, and personal collections, as well as invested in the rehabilitation of the life home. NPF also supported the development and installation of exhibits, oral history interviews, solar-powered trash compactors, and a project manager for increased capacity at the site.
A single-story ranch-style house with light brown brick and teal siding
Medgar & Myrlie Evers Home National Monument
Helping Establish New Parks
Helping Establish New Parks
In 2020, NPF was instrumental in establishing the Medgar & Myrlie Evers Home National Monument by providing NPS the funds necessary to acquire the Evers’ property from Tougaloo College. Additionally, in 2023, NPF supported the monument with infrastructure, programmatic and new park assistance, including contributions to the 60th-anniversary events commemorating Medgar Evers’ assassination.
Learn More about Helping Establish New Parks
  • Great Smoky Mountains
    Highlighting Indigenous Voices
    An Inclusive Storytelling grant is supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park to highlight the experiences of the Indigenous Anikituwahgi people and people of African descent in the park and its gateway communities. The "Voices of the Smokies” project will result in the production of two short films, updated outdated exhibits, and curated demonstration events in the park led by local Anikituwahgi and African American communities.
  • Journee Harris at Rock Creek Park
    Harriet Tubman National Historical Park
    Supporting Internship Placements
    By partnering with the Greening Youth Foundation, NPS, and Fund II Foundation, NPF has supported interns in the internXL program for multiple years. Interns have worked at parks such as Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, helping create on-ramps for future leaders in conservation and preservation.
  • A museum exhibit of an apartment
    Lower East Side Tenement Museum
    Supporting New Exhibits
    A grant from NPF’s Inclusive Storytelling program supported the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in developing a new virtual complement to a permanent exhibit, titled “A Union of Hope: 1869.” The exhibit addresses the absence of Black experiences in interpreting U.S. urban history and focuses on Joseph and Rachel Moore, a Black family who lived in a Lower Manhattan tenement during the 1860s.

Related Stories

Joe Nelson walks along a mural depicting the history of Pullman
Preserving Pullman
Preserving Pullman
Explore how an artist's interpretation helps preserve the stories of the Pullman porters. NPF and partner Union Pacific commissioned Chicago artist Joe Nelson to help celebrate the opening of Pullman National Historical Park.
Learn More about Preserving Pullman
  • A group of people jump for joy
    Guest Blog
    I Carry You with Me
    Janina Edwards, an Outdoor Afro leader in Atlanta, reflects on a recent paddling trip. NPF is proud to work with partners such as Outdoor Afro to expand the perspectives and stories shared through national parks.
  • Black and white photograph of Harriet Tubman
    Harriet Tubman & National Parks
    A Beacon of Resilience & Love
    Learn more about the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman, and how Harriet Tubman National Historical Park is helping preserve her story.
  • A hat and lapel for the Pullman train car company
    Q&A with Robert F. Smith
    Preserving Black History in National Parks
    Enjoy a conversation between philanthropist Robert F. Smith and NPF President & CEO Will Shafroth on the importance of preserving, honoring, and celebrating Black history.
  • Sign reading "Paul Laurence Dunbar House" outside a two-story brick home
    Park Spotlight
    10 Parks that Honor Black History
    Explore the stories behind national parks that honor and share the stories and contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
  • A young child drags his finger along a polished stone surface
    Q&A with Creators
    Diving into NPS's Film "Twenty & Odd"
    NPS's film "Twenty & Odd" helped commemorate 400 years of African American history. Enjoy a Q&A with the film's creators.