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African American heritage history

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The National Park System preserves the history and contributions of African Americans as part of the nation's history. Over the years, the staff of the National Park Service has reflected the nation's social history. Among the first African Americans who influenced the course of the National Parks were:

Early Superintendents (not fully inclusive)

Charles Young: He served as an early Superintendent of Sequoia National Park in 1903. As a Captain in the 9th Cavalry Regiment, he was directed to take two troops of Buffalo soldiers to the Giants Grove of Sequoia and protect the trees and the park from damage. While there, the two companies completed construction of a road to the Giant's Grove, making public access possible.

Robert Stanton, National Capital Parks (East) (1970–1971)

Georgia Ellard, Rock Creek Park (1977–1988)

Garry Traynham, Allegheny Portage (1990–1995)

African-Americans have experienced a cultural paradox, or a contradiction. For many years, until World War II, they were largely excluded from the official history of the United States. Not in the sense that they went unmentioned; after all, one can hardly conceive a history of the United States that does not deal with slavery, abolitionism, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

But it was certainly possible to talk about blacks largely as objects, not agents, as primitives, as an unfortunate population whose presence was largely an annoyance, a misfortune, or a tragedy.

Blacks were usually presented as a people without a history in Africa, and they were presented as contributing nothing historically important to American life. Indeed, Western slavery had brought blacks into the loop of civilization and so was something of a perverse gift.

American contributions to the history and culture of the United States are vast and deeply interwoven in our collective national heritage. Many of our national parks preserve these stories and the places where they unfolded. Some parks tell them as part of the site’s broader chronicle while others were designated to specifically interpret the impact of the events that shaped our history at the site. Immerse yourself in these powerful national parks where African American heritage is preserved and honours.

It was the abolitionist movement in the United States that generated the first histories of blacks. One of the earliest was the white abolitionist and children’s writer Lydia Maria Child’s An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans, first published in 1833, tracing the history of slavery, the general status of the condition of blacks in the United States, their past in Africa, and their contributions to world civilization. It is largely a moral and political defense of the slaves’ right to be free based in good measure on an assessment of their history. So controversial was the subject at the time that Child wrote in her preface: “I am fully aware of the unpopularity of the task I have undertaken; but though I expect ridicule and censure, I cannot fear them