What better way to celebrate Black History Month (in my opinion) than to get out, enjoy nature, and traverse some of the trails that African Americans took to freedom not so long ago? Just in time for you to get your faux Indiana Jones on, the African American Experience Fund of the National Park Foundation released a list of ways to celebrate Black History Month in the nation parks, state by state.
- Louisiana – Enjoy a free concert featuring musicians from New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. Hosted by Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Asbury United Methodist Church in Natchitoches, the performers will be playing selections from their acclaimed CD collection, “Freedom is Coming: Songs of Freedom, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad.” Find out more here.
- Massachusetts – Experience the powerful story of the Civil War soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an all-black Civil War contingent, at Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Find out more here.
- Missouri – Encourage all fourth graders you know to enter the George Washington Carver National Monument‘s annual Art and Essay Contest! This year’s theme is “Overcoming Obstacles: Struggle and Triumph in the Life of George Washington Carver.” Find out more here.
- New York – Take part in an African Beads Workshop or an African Person Puppet Workshop led by anthropologist and designer Vickie Fremont African Burial Ground National Monument. Find out more here.
- Ohio – Help preserve the incredible legacy of Colonel Charles Young and join the African American Experience Fund in its efforts to establish the Colonel Charles Young Leadership Academy at the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. The academy will focus on leadership, and through community service, it will inspire young leaders, cultivate future park stewards, and rangers to follow in the footsteps of an “officer and a gentleman” who never wavered in his pursuit of excellence.
- Virginia – Spend the next three Saturdays at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site watching the award-winning PBS series “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.” Find out more here.
- Washington, D.C. – Celebrate the life of Frederick Douglass with a community-wide birthday party at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Live music, games, films, speakers, and plays will fill the day! Find out more here.
- Everywhere – Experience Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by exploring www.WeAreStillMarching.com. Not only can you read Dr. King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech and record yourself reciting it, but you can also connect with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The interactive site transports you to August 28, 1963 and allows you to engage with the momentous march that epitomized the civil rights movement.
If you’re a loner and community engagement isn’t your type of thing, you can still enjoy the country’s national parks, AA history style by traversing part of the Black Heritage Trail. The Black Heritage Trail links over 15 pre-American Civil War structures and historic sites, including the 1806 African Meeting House, the oldest surviving black church in the United States and the portions of the Underground Railroad.
And of course, Black history is infused in every part of this country because let’s face it – the United States was built on the backs of Black’s ancestors, literally. Slaves were hauling sh*t on their backs. For a more bucolic, reflective experience, visit Richmond National Battlefield Park – the park commemorating (which is a confusing thing but I digress) 30 American Civil War battles around the state. How does this connect to Black history you ask? Well we all know why that war was fought.
Now bundle up, and get out there! If you happen to take any of my suggestions, let me know how it went!