As part of Interior's mission, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service preserve and interpret places that teach us about our nation’s history and culture, so that future generations can learn from the past. The many African American heritage sites protected and maintained by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honor the contributions African Americans have made and continue to make to our nation.
To celebrate Black history this month and every month, explore some of these historic sites online and in person, when gathering in public spaces is safe.
To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, follow the CDC’s guidance on visiting parks and recreational facilities. Whether seeking wide-open spaces or exploring a historic urban neighborhood, visitors should always research the location to visit in advance to recreate responsibly and ensure an enjoyable and safe experience.
Growing up in the time of segregation, Martin Luther King Jr. was moved by destiny to become a leader in the civil rights movement. At the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, you can learn about the story of Martin Luther King Jr., who became a leader in the civil rights movement. You can visit the home of his birth and hear his voice in the church where he moved hearts and minds.
Established in 2018, Camp Nelson tells lesser known stories from the African American experience in the 19th century. Walk in the footsteps of soldiers to discover the role Camp Nelson played during the Civil War by visiting the Camp Nelson National Monument in Kentucky, which was a Union supply depot and hospital during the Civil War that became a recruitment and training center for African American soldiers, and a refugee camp for their wives and children. Thousands of slaves risked their lives escaping to this site with the hope of securing their freedom and, ultimately, controlling their futures by aiding in the destruction of slavery. Camp Nelson National Monument is also recognized as an official site on the NPS National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Maggie Lena Walker devoted her life to civil rights advancement, economic empowerment, and educational opportunities for Jim Crow-era African Americans and women. She was born in Richmond, Virginia, on July 15, 1864. Her mother was a former slave and cook. Despite her humble beginnings, Walker achieved national prominence as a businesswoman and community leader. She established a newspaper and was the first African American woman in the United States to found a bank. She is best known for her leadership of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a group that administered to the sick, promoted humanitarian causes and encouraged individual self-help and integrity.
The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site preserves the home where Walker lived and worked until her death in 1934. The Walker family owned the home until 1979, when it and all the contents were purchased by the National Park Service. Today, visitors can tour the house with all its original furnishings and learn more about this inspiring woman.
Former slave Holt Collier served as a Confederate sharpshooter, cavalryman and spy during the Civil War. After the war, Collier’s knowledge of the wilderness and his expertise in tracking game allowed him to become a well-respected professional hunter.
Collier became well known for his bear-hunting ability and is credited with killing over 3,000 bears – more than the number taken by Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket combined. When President Theodore Roosevelt, a passionate sportsman, traveled to Mississippi for a private bear hunt in 1902, Collier was tasked with planning almost every aspect of the adventure. Roosevelt told Collier during the trip that he “was the best guide and hunter he’d ever seen.” In 2004, the legendary outdoorsman was honored with the creation of Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi.
Visitors today can explore the refuge’s fields and forests and spot alligators, migratory waterfowl and songbirds, wading birds, white-tailed deer, squirrels, rabbits and many other species.
Born a slave, Frederick Douglass escaped a Maryland plantation at the age of 20 and quickly became known as a talented writer, powerful speaker and passionate abolitionist. Committed to freedom, Douglass dedicated his life to achieving justice for all Americans, particularly African Americans, women and minority groups. He envisioned America as an inclusive nation strengthened by diversity and free of discrimination.
A great place to learn about Douglass is Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C. Called “Cedar Hill” by Douglass, the stately house was his home from 1878 until his death in 1895. The house provided the backdrop to his active political and warm family life. The spacious estate and well-furnished rooms are a testament to Douglass' lifelong struggle to overcome entrenched prejudice.
Although it was established to protect wildlife, preserve habitat and offer outdoor recreational opportunities, Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina also reveals a complicated human story. After forcing Native American tribes off the area’s rich forests and wetlands, British colonists transformed the landscape into massive rice plantations. For several generations, enslaved people toiled in the heat and humidity as rice became the economic foundation of the Carolina lowlands.
Many plantation owners fled their estates during the Civil War. When they returned to their lands in 1865-66, they were forced to hire the newly freed slaves to work the rice fields. They worked the rice fields under contract, the provisions of which gave them wages and a portion of the harvest. Those living on Sandy Island formed communities at Mount Arena, Brickville, Ruinville and Pipe Down. Their descendants still inhabit the island today.
Booker T. Washington National Monument commemorates the birthplace of America's most prominent African American educator and orator of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After the Civil War, Washington worked tirelessly to help African Americans by promoting his strong beliefs about the benefits of self-help, hard work and practical education. In 1881, he founded a secondary school for African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama, where students learned trade skills, discipline and a distinct set of cultural values. Called the Tuskegee Institute, the school continues to educate generations of students today.
The National Monument preserves his birthplace and childhood home and tells the story of the life of this influential American. Washington lived at this farm for the first nine years of his life -- from his birth in 1856 until his emancipation in 1865. Here, he formed his initial impressions about education, race, and labor, impressions that would influence his life, career and ideas until his death in 1915.
Harriet Tubman National Historical Park commemorates the work and later years of Harriet Tubman, the fearless Underground Railroad conductor and active proponent of women’s suffrage and other causes. The park is located at the site where Tubman lived and worshiped in Auburn, New York, caring for family members and other formerly enslaved people seeking safe haven in the North. The historic church and rectory and other structures are largely intact from the time Tubman lived and worked in Auburn. They provide a strong physical basis for telling the story of her years following the Civil War when she was active in the women’s suffrage movement, in the AME Zion Church and in the establishment of a home for elderly, indigent African Americans.
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Florida is one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands along the Atlantic coast. It also tells the story of 6,000 years of human history in the area. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the site was home to the Kingsley Plantation, where visitors today can learn about the enslaved people who were forcibly brought to America and worked to provide wealth to the people who owned them.
Pullman National Monument shares the story of an experiment for equal economic opportunity for all. Founded on utopian ideas, the town of Pullman, Illinois, provided workers with a safe community, a better standard of living and an environment free of limitations by race, gender or economic status. These egalitarian values aided in the formation of the first legally recognized African American labor union.
Located in what is now the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago, the historic district includes the site of the former Pullman Palace Car Works factory and administration building, the Hotel Florence (named after George Pullman's eldest child), Arcade Park, and the Greenstone Church (currently the Greenstone United Methodist Church).
Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia recognizes the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) who fought during the Siege of Petersburg. During the Civil War, a total of nearly 187,000 African Americans served in the Union Army. In December 1864, all the USCTs around Petersburg were incorporated into the XXV Corps of the Army of the James. It was the largest black force assembled during the war and included 16,000 men at its peak. Overall, during the Petersburg Campaign, USCTs would participate in six major engagements and earn fifteen Medals of Honor. Through their unwavering courage, these troops helped Gen. Ulysses S. Grant cut off Petersburg's supply line and sealed the fate of the Confederacy.
Part of the Boston African American National Historic Site, the African Meeting House served as the religious, cultural and political center of the free black community in antebellum Boston. Church services, classes and celebrations were held here. It is part of the Black Heritage Trail -- 14 sites that tell the story of the African American community in Boston. The remarkable people of this community were leaders in the Abolition Movement, the Underground Railroad and the early struggle for equal rights and education.
Archeological evidence suggests various indigenous cultures inhabited the Great Dismal Swamp for over 10,000 years. Early European explorers considered the swamp wild and inhospitable and as a result, the area was largely avoided by settlers.
The swamp’s isolation, however, made it an ideal place for those that didn’t want to be found. For centuries, slaves escaped to the Great Dismal Swamp. For many, the sprawl of densely forested wetlands on the Virginia-North Carolina border was a stopping point on their journey northward. For others, the swamp became a permanent home where they established hidden, self-sufficient settlements on islands scattered through the flooded forest.
It’s impossible to know exactly how many people called the Great Dismal Swamp home, but recent research at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge suggests that as many as 50,000 people may have lived there.
Credited with establishing Negro History Week (forerunner to Black History Month) in 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson spent most of his life gathering an accurate written history of the African experience in America, and his home was the headquarters for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Today, the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., serves as testament to his efforts to inform the public on the role of African Americans in history.
On March 7, 1965, approximately 600 non-violent protesters in Selma, Alabama, departed from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church with the intent of marching 54 miles to Montgomery to demonstrate for voter's rights and against police brutality. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were attacked by state troopers and volunteer officers of the local sheriff's department. The attack caused outrage around the country and became known as "Bloody Sunday." Two days later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a second march which again had its path blocked by law enforcement officers. This time they decided to turn back and not risk a violent confrontation.
After a struggle in the courts, the protesters received an injunction for a third march. On March 21, the official Selma to Montgomery March began with the final number of supporters reaching near 25,000 people. Five months later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in voting practices or procedures because of race and color. Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail includes an Interpretive Center and informational sites along the 54-mile route.
Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, and Charles “Buddy” Bolden all got their start in what is today, the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park in Louisiana. Visitors walk in the footsteps and stand in the concert halls where some of our country’s most cherished musicians performed. Locations within the National Park Service’s jurisdiction include Canal Street, Lafayette Square, and Storyville. Today, visitors can attend a jazz concert or ranger performance at the new performance venue in the Old U.S. Mint.
In the 1870s, freed slaves left Kentucky in organized colonies to experience freedom in the “promised land” of Kansas. Nicodemus National Historic Site highlights the involvement of African Americans in the westward expansion and settlement of the Great Plains. One of the oldest and only remaining Black settlements west of the Mississippi River, Nicodemus contains five historic buildings representing the collective strength and desire for freedom of early African American pioneers.
On Mother’s Day 1961, a Freedom Riders bus was attacked at the Greyhound Bus Station in Anniston, Alabama, and was attacked again and burned just six miles out of town on Route 202. The Freedom Riders were a group of civil rights activists, both African American and Caucasian, who tested integration laws on the interstate bus system. The incident in Anniston was quickly reported in newspapers and shown on television screens across the country, shocking the nation and inspiring more people to join the fight against the injustices of Jim Crow laws in the American South. The Freedom Riders National Monument includes the former Greyhound Bus Station in Anniston and the bus burning site in Calhoun County.
The George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri is the birthplace and childhood home of the famed scientist, educator and humanitarian. Established in 1943, it is the first site in the national park system to be dedicated to an African American. The monument is home to the Carver Trail, which connects the historic Carver House, the cemetery where the Carver family is buried and 140 acres of restored tallgrass prairie.
Before the first African American military combat pilots could escort bombers over Germany during World War II, they first needed to pass their flight training. At the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama, you can relive their flying adventure and see where the “Red Tails” developed their skills to go on and become one of the most revered fighter groups in American history.
The Reconstruction Era began during the Civil War and lasted until the dawn of Jim Crow racial segregation in the 1890s. It remains one of the most complicated and poorly understood periods in American History. During Reconstruction, four million African Americans, newly freed from bondage, sought to integrate themselves into free society, into the educational, economic and political life of the country. This began in late 1861 in Beaufort County, South Carolina, after Union forces won the Battle at Port Royal Sound and brought the ‘Lowcountry’ along the South Carolina coast under Union control. More than 10,000 slaves remained there when their owners fled the cotton and rice plantations. The Abraham Lincoln administration decided to initiate the ‘Port Royal Experiment’ in Beaufort County to help the former slaves become self-sufficient. Reconstruction Era National Monument includes Darrah Hall on St. Helena Island -- one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas is a powerful reminder of the turbulent struggle over school desegregation. In 1957, nine African American students fought to attend the all-white high school and became a prominent test case for the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Today, Central High School is preserved and interpreted by the National Park Service and provides a historically accurate window into a critical moment of the civil rights movement.
Explore the people, places and stories that make up the moments of Central High's desegregation by the Little Rock Nine and learn how the sacrifice and struggle over a half century ago have provided opportunities and opened doors to those seeking equality and education around the world.