Celebrating African American Heritage

Highlights from National Park Service sites that commemorate African American history and culture

StereoviewNational Park Service

Stereoview (detail),  Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

This rare stereoview is thought to feature Selina Gray and two of her daughters. Selina Gray was the personal maid of Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, the wife of Robert E. Lee. It was to Selina that Mrs. Lee left the keys to Arlington House as the family fled the estate in 1861. Early in the Union occupancy of the estate, Selina was instrumental in saving relics that belonged to President George Washington, passed down in the family by Mrs. Lee’s father, George Washington Parke Custis, step-grandson of President Washington.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic SiteNational Park Service

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

The story of Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in public schools, is one of hope and courage. When the people agreed to be plaintiffs in the case, they never knew they would change history. The people who make up this story were ordinary people. They were teachers, secretaries, welders, ministers and students who simply wanted to be treated equally.

Oakland Plantation, Cook's House, Cane River Creole National Historical Park by Jack E BoucherNational Park Service

Oakland Plantation, Cook's House, Cane River Creole National Historical Park

The Oakland plantation complex includes a French Creole style main house with twenty-three historic dependencies.

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site by National Park ServiceNational Park Service

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site

Before Dr. Carter G. Woodson, there was very little accurate written history about the lives and experiences of Americans of African descent. Today a National Historic Site, Dr. Woodson’s home served as the headquarters for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Dr. Woodson established Negro History Week here in 1926, which we celebrate today as Black History Month.

Frederick Douglass (1887) by Eva WebsterNational Park Service

Drawing, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Frederick Douglass spent his life fighting for justice and equality. Born into slavery in 1818, he escaped as a young man and became a leading voice in the abolitionist movement. 

Library at Frederick Douglass National Historic SiteNational Park Service

Library,  Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

As part of a daily routine, Frederick Douglass spent up to five hours a day studying and writing in his library at Cedar Hill, Anacostia. Douglass was self-taught and continued to read and learn throughout his life. In addition to reading and writing, Douglass taught himself multiple languages, how to read music, and to play the violin. 

Private Jesse Hopson (1865) by Gayford & SpeidelNational Park Service

Private Jesse Hopson, Gettysburg
National Military Park

Nancy Davis and Eliza Ridgely III (1863) by Israel & Co.National Park Service

Nancy Davis and Eliza Ridgely III, Hampton
National Historic Site

Nancy Davis (1833 - 1908) was born a slave at Cowpens, the Howard family plantation near Hampton. However, she was free by the time this image was taken at a Baltimore photo studio during the Civil War. Davis was then nursemaid for little Eliza Ridgely (1858-1954), the daughter of Charles and Margaretta Howard Ridgely, and her brothers and sisters. Nancy continued to work for the Ridgelys of Hampton for many years, and is the only African American buried in the Ridgely family cemetery at Hampton National Historic Site.

Photograph, Maggie Lena WalkerNational Park Service

Photograph, Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

As a civil rights activist and pioneering entrepreneur, Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934) devoted herself to uplifting the African American community in Richmond, VA and in the nation at large. Mrs. Walker often highlighted her own success, inspiring other African Americans, especially women, to achieve their potential amidst the daunting oppression of Jim Crow America. 

Dining Room at Maggie Walker National Historic Site by National Park ServiceNational Park Service

Dining Room, Maggie Walker National Historic Site

Maggie Lena Walker devoted her life to civil rights advancement, economic empowerment, and educational opportunities for Jim Crow-era African Americans and women. As a bank president, newspaper editor, and fraternal leader, Walker served as an inspiration of pride and progress. Today, Walker’s home is preserved as a tribute to her enduring legacy of vision, courage, and determination.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C. (2011) by Carol M. HighsmithNational Park Service

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Located in downtown Washington, D.C., the memorial honors Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy and the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park by Historic American Buildings SurveyNational Park Service

MLK Birth Home, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama by Carol M. HighsmithNational Park Service

Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge, Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail

The Edmund Pettus bridge became a symbol of the momentous changes taking place in Alabama, America, and the world. It was here that voting rights marchers were violently confronted by law enforcement personnel on March 7, 1965. The day became known as Bloody Sunday.

Tuskegee Airmen Group PhotoNational Park Service

Tuskegee Airmen Group Photo,  Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

"Tuskegee Airmen"  refers to the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans during World War II to fly and maintain combat aircraft.  Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air. The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. They proved conclusively that African Americans could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft. Their achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military.

Piper Cub Airplane RestoreNational Park Service

Piper Cub Airplane, Tuskegee Airmen
National Historic Site 

Booker T. Washington (1910) by Peter P. JonesNational Park Service

Booker T Washington,  Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site 

Booker T. Washington was born a slave in April 1856 on the 207 acre farm of James Burroughs. After the Civil War, Washington became the first principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School. Later as an adviser, author and orator, his past would influence his philosophies as the most influential African American of his era. 

"The Oaks" - Home of Booker T. Washington (1999)National Park Service

Booker T Washington's Home,  Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

The Oaks, "a large comfortable home," was built for Booker T Washington and his family. They moved into the house in 1900. Washington lived there until his death in 1915. His widow, Margaret, lived at The Oaks until her death in 1925. 

George Washington Carver (1906) by Frances Benjamin JohnstonNational Park Service

George Washington Carver, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

George Washington Carver rose from slavery to become a renowned educator, scientist, artist, and humanitarian. An innovator and idealist, he had a remarkable understanding of the natural world.Carver devoted his life to research and finding practical alternatives to improving agriculture and the economic condition of African-Americans in the South.

Studies for the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial s (1884/1897) by Augustus Saint-GaudensNational Park Service

Studies for the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Memorial, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Credits: Story

Amber Dumler, National Park Service
Joan Bacharach, National Park Service

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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The past, present, and future of the Black experience in the United States
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