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African American History & Culture

National parks across the country preserve and share the multi-generational and multi-faceted stories of African Americans in the United States.
Support This Work
  • Reflecting Our Past
    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 U.S. over 400 years ago, to the inspiring African American leaders of today, our national parks preserve and share important stories.
  • Inspiring the 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.
  • NPF's Commitment
    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.

African American History & Our Parks

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 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.

A street lamp outside a split level brick home
Program
African American Experience Fund
Established in 2001, NPF's African American Experience Fund raises funds and establishes partnerships that support park sites and projects that tell the stories of African Americans.
Learn More about African American Experience Fund
  • Facade of two-story home with an expansive, green lawn
    African American Experience Fund
    Helping Establish New Parks
    In 2013, NPF helped establish Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio, which honors the first African American national park superintendent.
  • Outdoor exhibit poster hanging from an open structure
    African American Experience Fund
    Honoring Women in Parks
    As part of NPF's Women in Parks initiative, AAEF supported the development of an exhibit at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park exploring and honoring the life and contributions of Coretta Scott King.
  • exhibit in park visitor center
    African American Experience Fund
    Inspiring Future Generations
    In 2020, AAEF supported the creation of a Discovery Lab classroom at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site to inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers.
  • Journee Harris at Rock Creek Park
    Fund II Historic Preservation
    Supporting Internship Placements
    By partnering with the Greening Youth Foundation, NPS, and Fund II Foundation, NPF helped place twelve interns in the internX program in 2020, who supported parks such as Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, helping create on-ramps for future leaders in conservation and preservation.
  • Three-story yellow townhouse with green trim
    Fund II Historic Preservation
    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
    Fund II Historic Preservation
    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, as well as a comprehensive planning process for the park.
Two-story cream-colored home with red-brown roof
Area of Work
History & Culture
NPF's work in preserving history and culture supports programs and projects that unearth and share more inclusive stories in parks across the country.
Learn More about History & Culture
  • Various exhibits inside a historic red brick building
    Project
    Preserving Pullman
    NPF has provided a total of $10 million to support Pullman National Monument, supporting the revitalization of the site and improvements to the grounds and historic buildings as well as the construction of its visitor center.
  • Vintage typewriter and sheets of paper sit on a large wooden desk.
    Program
    National Park Service Mellon Humanities Fellowships
    Established in 2019, NPF's Mellon Humanities Fellowship program supports the work of a collection 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.
  • An arched steel bridge over a river
    Project
    New Exhibit Along Historic Trail
    NPF supported a new immersive and interactive exhibit along the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, designed using oral histories and historical narratives to bring this momentous event to life.
Related Stories
Joe Nelson walks along a mural depicting the history of Pullman
Story
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 Monument.
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.
  • 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.
A bench sits on a covered porch
Preserving History, Inspiring Generations

The National Park Foundation is committed to supporting the National Park Service in its efforts to expand and enhance its storytelling in parks. National parks embody the essence of a nation forged by the powerful forces of nature, the chronicles of conflict, a spirit of innovation, and an enduring vision of democracy for all. Join us in supporting programs and projects that continue this important work.

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