By Julianne G. Crane
During February, Black History Month, the National Park Service helps celebrate more than 400 years of African American history. Events highlight the achievements, contributions and historical journeys of African Americans through American history.
The National Park Foundation encourages explorations into our nation’s history and culture by visiting significant or little known historical places.
Near the Lincoln Memorial, just off the reflecting pool on the National Mall, sits the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The shaded area honors King, the movement he led, and his message of freedom and equality. “Through his powerful gift of speech and eloquent writing, Dr. King’s inspiring words broke the boundaries of intolerance and solidified his place in history as a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement,” states the National Park Foundation.
Dedicated in 2011, “[T]he memorial design references Dr. King’s 1963 iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, symbolizing both the struggle of the civil rights movement, as well as his hope for a better future.”
A wall of quotes from Dr. King’s civil rights career “presents his ideals of peace, democracy, justice, and love. Walk in the steps of this civil rights leader and experience his story in national parks year-round.”
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad – Maryland
“Harriet Tubman was a deeply spiritual woman who lived her ideals and dedicated her life to freedom,” says the National Park Service. Tubman was the Underground Railroad’s best-known conductor. Before the Civil War she repeatedly risked her life to guide nearly 70 enslaved people north to new lives of freedom. “I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger,” said Tubman.
The free Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park “preserves the same landscapes that Tubman used to carry herself and others away from slavery.” The four barn-like structures are modeled after traditional building techniques for local agricultural barns.
This relatively new historic park serves as an orientation center and gateway to the more expansive Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway. It includes exhibits and knowledgeable staff with information to other sites along the byway.
If you go:
The Visitor Center’s adjusted hours (during COVID conditions) are Thursday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EST). Visitors are encouraged to make reservations through the online registration system under “Plan Your Visit.” There are no fees to visit.
Visitor Center Address: 4068 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek, MD 21622. Telephone: 410-221-2290.
Other historical places
The National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places highlights dozens of properties that exemplify the contributions of African American culture and achievement, including:
Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical University Building, Chicago, Illinois
“During the early 1900s, Chicago emerged as a center for black aviation rivaled only by Los Angeles. The Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical University served as an important entry point for many of the country’s pioneering black pilots. These men and women went on to play important roles in the promotion and expansion of black aviation in the United States and abroad.”
Marian Anderson House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“Anderson was a civil rights icon and an African American contralto.” She had a ground-breaking career in classical music from the mid-1920s through the late-1950s.
Carver Theatre, Richmond County, South Carolina
The Carver Theatre in Columbia is important in the early- to mid-20th century history of Columbia’s black community during the later period of racial segregation in the South.
Virtual visits of national parks
If you can’t physically visit national parks and historical sites during an RV road trip, explore new parks from home by taking virtual tours … just click here.
— During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are highlighting places that can be safely experienced from the road or in an outdoor public space. If you know of cities with outstanding public art collections, or unique places, please let us know.