The week has been difficult and eye-opening here at Park Chasers. As many of you know, for the past 15 years we’ve called the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul home. Last week our beloved city was thrust into the center of a long-building crisis, exposing some of the worst of what our country has too long ignored. While we were fortunate to be safe and relatively unharmed, that’s not the story for all families in our state and around the nation.
Like many of you, we’ve taken the week away from business as usual, for reflection and deep, thoughtful conversations with loved ones.
As we reflected on all of these questions and continue to ponder the new ones that arise, we return to the parks. It’s what we know best, after all.
What The National Parks Can Teach Us About Racial Inequality
In fact, the National Park Service has been helpful in teaching us much about our country’s shared history — including the painful parts. The NPS dedicates itself to the documentation and preservation of the places, lives and stories that have shaped our country and brought us to this place. We’ll be the first to admit, they haven’t always gotten it right, and there’s much more work to do. But for people who have had their eyes opened this past week and are committed to learning more, we think the parks are one place to start.
More than 70 of the 400+ different national park units commemorate or preserve the stories and heritage of people of color. Many of these units are tied directly to the ongoing struggle against racial inequality that has raged on our continent since the first Europeans arrived centuries ago.
We know that a 90 minute visit to a national park does not in itself solve the mountain of struggle ahead. But for the millions of Americans who would like options to continue the conversation, it’s one more resource out there. It’s time for us all to learn these stories, spend time in these places, and hear the voices that have been silenced for far too long. We’re sharing a list of places around the National Park Service where you can get started…
All week the voice of late Senator Paul Wellstone from Minnesota has rang true for us. Before his death in 2002, Wellstone worked tirelessly to address economic and social inequalities. In a 1999 speech to the Sheet Metal Workers Union, he’s famously quoted saying: In a 1999 speech to the Sheet Metal Workers Union, he stated: “Whatever happened to the idea…that we all do better when we all do better?”
Going forward, we know that we must do better.
We must encourage our friends and family members to do better.
We all must move forward with a commitment to listening, to learning, and to understanding more about the path that others walk.
We hope you join us on a healing road forward and that the national parks can play a part.
70 National Parks to Learn About Racial Inequality
As we share this list, we must first recognize that all United States National Parks rest on indigenous lands, most of which were forcibly taken. While we share several national park sites to learn about racial inequality below, it’s not without acknowledgement of this historical injustice. Many of the artifacts that rest in NPS museums belong to native communities and the lands we share have a different heritage that often goes untold.
In the coming months, we’ll be revising all of our past articles and posts to reflect and acknowledge the indigenous people who called these places home.
Parks Documenting African American Heritage
The National Park Service has more than 25 different units dedicated to telling the stories of Black Americans in our country. From a cemetery hidden under the streets of Manhattan to the times before when we have filled the streets seeking justice, here are some places to start. We also encourage you to check out the Civil Rights Travel Itineraries developed by the NPS and National Park Foundation.
6. Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Kansas
7. Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Heritage Area, Louisiana
8. Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Ohio
9. Fredrick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington D.C.
10. Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, Kansas/Missouri
11. George Washington Carver National Monument, Missouri
12. Harriet Tubman Underground National Historical Park, Maryland
13. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Arkansas
14. Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Virginia
15. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, Georgia
16. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, DC
17. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, Washington DC
18. Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, Mississippi
19. National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington DC
20. National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
21. Natchez National Historical Park, Mississippi
22. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Louisiana
23. Nicodemus National Historic Site, Kansas
24. Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument, California
25. Pullman National Monument, Illinois
26. Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, Alabama
27. Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Park, Alabama
Parks Documenting Latino Heritage
Although much of this week’s attention has gathered around the Black community, we must move forward to do better for all communities of color. The 13 national parks below and the American Latino Heritage Fund work to tell the stories of Latino Americans and their fight for racial equity.
28. Cabrillo National Monument, California
29. Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, California
30. Chamizal National Memorial, Texas
31. Coronado National Memorial, Arizona
32. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail, New Mexico/Texas
33. El Morro National Monument, New Mexico
34. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, Texas
35. Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico
36. Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, New Mexico
37. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Texas
38. San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico
39. Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Florida
40. Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona
Parks Documenting Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage
In order for us to learn from our past mistakes, the National Park Service invites us to learn more about the times when our country failed its citizens the most. The government ordered internment camps and aggressive racial discrimination faced by Asian Americans following World War II continues to impact communities today. Visit one of these units and learn about the vibrant heritage of Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans:
41. Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, Hawaii
42. Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
43. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Monument, Hawaii
44. Honouliuli National Monument, Hawaii
45. Manzanar National Historic Site, California
46. Minidoka Internment National Historic Site, Idaho/Washington
47. National Park of American Samoa
48. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Hawaii
49. Kalaupapa National Historic Site, Hawaii
50. Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Hawaii
51. Pu’uhonaua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii
52. Golden Spike National Historic Site, Utah
53. Tule Lake National Monument, California
54. War in the Pacific National Historical Park, Guam
Parks Documenting Indigenous Heritage
As mentioned above, we cannot celebrate the national parks without acknowledging that these places were created because the U.S. government either ignored, invalidated, or did not recognize the rights of Native American communities. It’s up to each of us to hold the National Park Service accountable to do what it can to restore and reconnect with the heritage of the people who our parks truly belong to.
That being said, there are several national parks to learn about racial inequality specific to Indigenous communities:
55. Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California
56. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska
57. Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, North Carolina
58. Chaco Culture World Heritage Site, New Mexico
59. Champlain Valley National Heritage Area, Vermont/New York
60. Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming
61. Fort Stanwix National Monument, New York
62. Great Basin National Heritage Area, Nevada/Utah
63. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
64. Nez Perce National Historical Park, Idaho/Montana, Oregon, Washington
65. Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota
66. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, Colorado
67. Sitka National Historical Park, Alaska
68. Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (9 states)
69. Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Oklahoma
70. Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, Arizona
Other National Parks To Learn About Civil Rights
We’d be remiss if we failed to mention that these aren’t the only national park units that explore issues of inequality and civil rights.
The National Park Service also has units to celebrate and educate about Disability History, LGBTQ Heritage, Women’s History. To further explore and continue the conversation on this issue, we also recommend these units:
- Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, Washington D.C.
- Eisenhower National Historic Site, Pennsylvania
- Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, New York
- Gateway National Recreation Area, New York/New Jersey
- Stonewall National Monument, New York
- Women’s Rights National Historical Park, New York
Document Your Trips with A National Park Passport
Do you have a story to tell?
A national park that pushed you to think differently about race and inequality?
Share your comments with us below and keep the dialogue going.