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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, 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.

Note: In this messaging, NPF uses the language Black and African American interchangeably. While the intent is to honor inclusivity and be representative of various ways that people identify, we recognize that this language does not account for all identities. We also recognize the importance and need of specificity in reference to particular communities.

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.

  • 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.
  • A street lamp outside a split level brick home
    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.
  • Various exhibits inside a historic red brick building
    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.
  • Close up of a blue biplane with yellow wings
    Fund II Civil Rights Historic Preservation
    A partnership between NPF and Fund II Foundation 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
    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.

Recent Projects

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

  • A single-story ranch-style house with light brown brick and teal siding
    Medgar & Myrlie Evers Home National Monument
    Helping Establish New Parks
    NPF was instrumental in establishing Medgar & Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in 2020. NPF provided NPS the funds necessary to acquire the Evers’ property from Tougaloo College.
  • Outdoor exhibit poster hanging from an open structure
    Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
    Honoring Women in Parks
    As part of NPF’s Women in Parks initiative, in 2021 NPF’s AAEF African American Experience Fund 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
    Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
    Inspiring Future Generations
    In 2020, NPF’s African American Experience Fund program 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
    Harriet Tubman National Historical Park
    Supporting Internship Placements
    By partnering with the Greening Youth Foundation, NPS, and Fund II Foundation, NPF helped place twelve interns in the internXL 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
    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.
  • Desk and library shelves in a dark study
    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, as well as a comprehensive planning process for the park.
  • Various exhibits inside a historic red brick building
    Pullman National Historical Park
    Supporting New Parks
    NPF has provided a total of $10 million to support Pullman National Historical Park since 2015, supporting the revitalization of the site and improvements to the grounds and historic buildings as well as the construction of its visitor center.
  • An arch winds over a steel bridge, over a river
    Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
    Enhancing Exhibits
    In 2020, 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
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.