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Labor History in Parks

The labor movement and the fight for better working conditions is preserved in the stories of national parks across the country.
  • Environment, Technology, and Labor
    The effects of industrialization on people and the environment is a prominent story across national parks. Lowell National Historical Park and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site examine the intersections of technological change and labor in New England.
  • Revolutionary Work
    Battlefields and other national park sites associated with the Revolutionary War and Civil War are giving greater attention to labor. Park staff and partners examines slavery in both a national and local context, connecting military and political history to the lived experiences of free and enslaved African Americans.
  • Union History Preserved
    In the 1890s, a strike and boycott by employees of the Pullman Company called attention to inequality in the Gilded Age. The following creation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African American labor union, transformed the American labor landscape. These stories are forever preserved at Pullman National Monument.

The Stories of a Country at Work

In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the remnants of log camps, sawmills, and company towns remain visible on the landscape. At Keweenaw National Historical Park, copper mining sites with a history spanning millennia are interpreted by National Park Service (NPS) staff and partner organizations. And, at Hampton National Historic Site, the lives of enslaved African Americans who labored in nearby iron furnaces, as well on the estate itself, have become a central focus of research and public programming.

The National Park Foundation (NPF)’s work in history and culture helps safeguard the historic sites and collections that hold our shared history through dynamic educational programs, professional development opportunities, rehabilitation of historic sites, and the preservation or irreplaceable artifacts and places.

And NPS and NPF are working to expand storytelling at parks to share a more comprehensive history of the U.S., including the contributions and stories of forced laborers, enslaved people, and advocates of the labor movement so we can all gain a greater understanding of the park’s history. The histories of work and working people help us explore the lives of a broader range of individuals – each with their own labor history to share – and invite us to imagine a better future.

NPF's Work in This Space

NPF supports national parks, programs, and projects that highlight the stories of America at work.

  • Various exhibits inside a historic red brick building
    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.
  • Phone and typewriter sit on a 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, including those focused on labor history, to help us discover untold perspectives and new voices.
  • A simple chair with leather straps next to a desk and bookshelves
    Highlighting Women's Contributions
    A 2020 Women in Parks grant from NPF supported César E. Chávez National Monument's research and documentation of the experiences of Mexican, Filipina, and Chicana women farm workers in California, including their role in the farm workers movement.
Related Stories
  • Cotton mill weave room, with green and red mill machines
    Park Spotlight
    Parks that Tell America's Labor Story
    From the story of the United Farm Workers in California to the women who worked at sawmills in Massachusetts, explore key moments and people in America’s labor history in parks across the country.
  • exhibit in park visitor center
    An Interwoven Story
    Black History and the Labor Movement
    Black history and labor history are inextricably interwoven. Explore the parks that honor this shared history. 
  • Stairs leading up to the Memorial Garden at Cesar E Chavez National Monument
    Movements that Made Us
    Trailblazing Movements
    Throughout our country's history people have worked, fought, protested, and died to create a better future. Explore the parks that preserve, interpret, and protect these stories.
Behind glass, a ring of vintage keys
Be Part of the Past and Future of Our Parks

You can help improve access to places, cultural heritage, and stories that give Americans a stronger connection to our country.  Support NPF’s work around preserving the history and culture that live within our national parks.

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