|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||October 1, 2008|
|Contact:||Perry Wheeler, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 202-419-3712|
African-American History Alive in Our National Parks, at Forefront of Birmingham Convention
National Parks Conservation Association Speaks During Opening Plenary Session at 2008 Association for the Study of African American Life and History Convention
Birmingham, Ala. - Earlier today, Tom Kiernan, president of the nation’s leading voice for the national parks, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), helped kick off the 2008 Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) convention by providing opening plenary session remarks about the role of the national parks in the preservation of African-American history. Kiernan asked conference attendees to help protect this history in the national parks by calling on the next Administration and Congress to provide increased funding to adequately protect our national park heritage.
“Although more widely known for the great natural parks such as Yellowstone and the Everglades, the National Park System also encompasses more than two dozen sites that represent the history, the contributions, and the struggles of African Americans in this country,” Kiernan said. “The challenge for the National Park Service is that some of the incredible history in these sites could be lost because of a lack of funding.”
Kiernan highlighted several of the approximately 25 sites within the National Park System that preserve and interpret African-American history:
• Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (W.Va., Md., Va.) was home to several major events in American history. In October 1859, it was the scene of John Brown’s raid against slavery. During the Civil War, the area became a refuge for runaway slaves and abolitionists. And in 1906, it was the second meeting place for W.E.B. Dubois’ Niagara Movement, the group of reformers that helped launch the modern Civil Rights era.
• In Georgia, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site provides a glimpse into the life of the man, who, for many people, symbolizes the American Civil Rights movement. The site preserves and interprets the birth home, church, and crypt of Dr. King, who called the region home.
• Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., preserves the legacy and home of Frederick Douglass, who overcame slavery to become a renowned orator, abolitionist, statesman, editor, author, and reformer. Douglass was the most prominent African American of his time, and continues to inspire those who fight for justice and liberty today. The historic Cedar Hill home, which had a panoramic view of the nation’s capital, offers a glimpse into the life of this true American hero.
The National Parks Conservation Association has played a significant role in preserving African-American history in the national parks. NPCA helped to establish the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program, which tells the story of men and women who resisted slavery through escape and flight. The nonprofit also helped to protect the historic Murphy Farm at Harpers Ferry, which was home to John Brown’s fort from 1895-1909, and which faced the threat of a large housing development several years ago.
In 2003, NPCA’s Center for the State of the Parks released an assessment of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. The report demonstrated that additional funding was needed to resolve a moisture problem, which threatened the house and the invaluable artifacts within that Frederick Douglass himself had handled years ago. NPCA succeeded in securing additional congressional funding to restore the historic site and protect items in the home essential to Mr. Douglass.
The National Park Service celebrates its centennial in 2016. Kiernan concluded by addressing this milestone, challenging, “We need your help to convince the next Congress and Administration to fund our national parks to preserve our great legacy and prepare them for their second century.”
The plenary session, Hidden Treasures of the National Park Service: Discovering African American History in our National Parks, featured prominent panelists from the National Park Service and NPCA’s board and staff, including the first African-American director of the National Park Service, Robert Stanton, who served as director from 1997-2001 and as chair of NPCA’s National Council since 2006. Audrey Peterman, president of Earthwise Productions and NPCA board member, also participated in the panel discussion.
The 93rd annual ASALH convention runs through October 5 in Birmingham, Alabama. The theme of this year’s convention is “Carter G. Woodson and The Origins of Multiculturalism”.
In 1915, Dr. Woodson established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The group works daily to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about African-American life, history, and culture to the global community. Dr. Woodson’s home is also protected as part of the National Park System to welcome and inspire visitors.
Since 1919, the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 340,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for our children and grandchildren.
Click here for a list of national parks that protect and tell the rich history of the African-American experience.
# # #