The other day I received from Eastern National the Guidebook to African American History in the National Parks. The monograph was published last summer in conjunction with the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. The guidebook is not a comprehensive account of African American history as interpreted by the NPS, but it is extensive. Some sites, such as the African Burial Ground in Manhattan, are obvious inclusions; however some entries are less intuitive. Examples include the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (the St. Louis arch), Port Chicago (California) Naval Magazine National Memorial, and Hot Spring (Arkansas) National Park. In addition to site information there are brief essays about the Civil War, Juneteenth, the Buffalo Soldiers, and other aspects of African American heritage. The book is insightful not just for the information it provides on the sites themselves, but for what it says about the Park Service’s efforts to tell a more inclusive version of our nation’s history. With Black History Month coming up there could not be a better time to read this new offering from the NPS.
(image/James W. Rosenthal)