“It was in a state of disrepair,” Tara Morrison, Superintendent of the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site in Washington D.C., explained. “In certain sections taking bricks out, labeling them, numbering them, repairing them, restoring them and putting them back in their exact place. I mean this is the home where he lived from 1922 to 1950.”
Meticulous preservation efforts to provide a space for people to learn important pieces of history.
”I see it as a gateway to Black history, to African American history, and it allows the National Park Service to introduce visitors who come to that one site. To opening doors, opening minds to all the National Park Service has to offer in terms of African American history,” she said.
This is just one of dozens of sites the National Park Service oversees that focuses on African American history.
“Currently, the National Park Service has 50 sites that interpret African American history and culture,” Angel Thompson, project manager of cultural resources at the National Park Foundation, said. The nonprofit provides support to the National Park Service.
“Preserving the historical sites and objects associated with African American history and culture...allows our national park visitors to learn, connect and visit the sites that tell the stories of African American perseverance and resilience,” Thompson said.
Part of their preservation work has been done through the African American Experience Fund.
Fund II Foundation Founding Director Robert Smith said in a statement: “Their sacrifices shaped history as well as today and tomorrow, and they deserve our honoring them.”
“Even though they’re probably better known as these amazing places out west like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, and Glacier...most of the national parks are focused around our history and culture,” Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation, said.
“Tuskegee is an example of where we’re going to do something different. There, we’re really trying to attract visitors to have an experience of what it was like to be a Tuskegee Airman, so we’re having a flight simulator,” he explained.
From the house of Martin Luther King Jr., to the church in New York where Harriet Tubman’s funeral was held, the fund is helping to restore historic sites.
“Carter G. Woodson has been recognized by the National Park Service because of his great work in the rewriting of American history,” Dr. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, said. The organization was founded by Woodson. “He recognized that African Americans in 1937 were saying to themselves, it’s important for us to not only read about our heroes, to not only learn history in books, but to go to these sites where history was literally made.”
And now, people can. The National Park Service and National Park Foundation are also working to put more and more historical sites online for virtual viewing. In the meantime, their preservation work continues for when they can open doors again.
“When we open in 2022, I expect there will be an increased interest not only from the general public but especially from school groups and other organizations who are wanting to increase their understanding of this piece of American history,” Morrison said.