Department of Interior may fund a historic site at Natchez, Mississippi slave market

Here is the Associated Press:

A federal agency could put money toward eventual development of a historical site that was once one of the largest slave markets in the United States.

Enslaved people were sold from 1833 to 1863 at the Forks of the Road site in Natchez, Mississippi. The site currently has a sign and a small monument made of concrete and shackles. Officials have been working since 2005 on proposals to turn it into a more detailed memorial.

“Of course, Black history is American history. But more than that, this is human history,” said Kathleen Bond, superintendent of Natchez National Historical Park. “We all understand the humanity of the different experiences people have had in this country. I think the healthiest thing is for us to be able to tell the truth and then work together.”

The U.S. Department of Interior has included $400,000 for Forks of the Road in a priority list of recommended spending from the federal Land Water Conservation Fund for the federal fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the Natchez Democrat reported. The federal budget has not been finalized.

Read the rest here.

Gettysburg Confederate monuments to get new panels to offer more historical context

Lee at Gettysburg

Here is Nolan Simmons at Penn Live:

Panels will soon be installed near each of 12 Confederate state monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park to offer visitors more context to understand when and under what circumstances they were erected.

The National Park Service expects the panels to be added by September. They will be located near the Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tenessee, Texas and Virginia state monuments.

This move is partially a response by the park service to the recent national conversations about what should be done with Confederate monuments across the country, said acting spokesman Jason Martz.

A fake social media post, advertising plans by Antifa to burn flags at the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on July 4, drew dozens of armed people to the battlefield with the intention of thwarting any such protest. The initial post was later revealed to be a hoax.

While that incident bolstered the conversation, the decision to install the contextual panels has been in the works since earlier in the summer, Martz said — since calls for racial equality spurred by the death of George Floyd came to encompass a discussion about monuments that glorify those who fought in support of slavery.

Scott Hancock, a professor of Africana Studies at Gettysburg College who lives near the battlefield, has argued that the monuments tell a one-sided story that ignores the flaws of those memorialized, and the historical context in which they were erected.

The panels are a sort of middle-ground solution for the park.

Read the entire piece here.

Gettysburg battlefield guides call for the protection of Confederate monuments


The York (PA) Daily Record is running an op-ed from Les Fowler, president of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides.

Here is a taste of his piece:

We are grateful that the National Park Service has made strong statements in support of all monuments. One statement said this: “Across the country, the NPS maintains and interprets monuments, markers, and plaques that represent painful or controversial chapters in our nation’s history.  We are committed to telling the larger story behind these memorials.”

In discussing Confederate monuments, Gettysburg College professor Scott Hancock a few years ago wrote this: “It is time to consider how to make Gettysburg a space that teaches the values each side fought for.” Every guide agrees with him. We express our agreement not by words or by making banners; rather, licensed guides emulate Professor Hancock’s sentiments in the tours we provide of the battlefield every day.

Read the entire piece here.

What about the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg?

Alabama monument

Confederate statues are coming down all over the United States. But what should we do about these monuments at Civil War battlefields like Gettysburg National Military Park?

Nolan Simmons of PennLive (Harrisburg Patriot-News) talked with some local historians, including two award-winning teachers–Scott Hancock of Gettysburg College and Kevin Wagner of Carlisle Area (PA) High School.

A taste:

Hancock says he would support removing Confederate monuments from Gettysburg if they continue to exist without context, as they do today. But he would rather see the park teach visitors about the history of the monuments and use them as a tool to educate people about the systems of white supremacy the Confederacy fought to protect.

“In Richmond, if you’re driving by that statue, you’re not going to stop and read signs or listen to an interpreter, but people come to the Gettysburg battlefield to learn,” Hancock said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to instruct people about our history in a more comprehensive way.”

Kevin Wagner, history teacher and program chair for social studies at the Carlisle Area School District, uses these representations of difficult moments in history as tools to teach what he calls “hard history.”

In his class, Wagner has students study the history of statues of Abraham Lincoln, including the Emancipation Memorial on display in Washington, D.C. The statue features Lincoln standing over a freed African-American who is kneeling with broken shackles around his wrists.

The statue is currently the focus of a petition that calls for its removal, citing its “degrading racial undertones.” But Wagner says that people would feel differently if they knew the history of the statue itself.

“That statue was paid for entirely by freed slaves with pennies and nickels and dimes,” Wagner said. “There needs to be a contextualization, or let’s add a marker beside it that explains the backstory. Any piece of art, much like a monument, is open to interpretation unless you know what the real story is.”

Read the entire piece here.

Listen to Hancock talk about race in America in Episode 70 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Ring a Bell on August 25, 2019 to Honor the First Africans to Land in English America

Church bell

The National Park service is calling for a national “day of healing” on August 25 to “honor the first Africans who landed in 1619 at Point Comfort and 400 years of African American history.”  A commemoration will take place at Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton Virginia on the 25th. The staff of that site is inviting all 419 national parks and the general public to ring bells for four minutes–one for each century of the African-American experience.

Here is a taste of the National Park Service announcement:

Bells are symbols of freedom.

They are rung for joy, sorrow, alarm, and celebration…universal concepts in each of our lives. This symbolic gesture will enable Americans from all walks of life to participate in this historic moment from wherever they are–to capture the spirit of healing and reconciliation while honoring the significance of 400 years of African American history and culture.

Since its establishment on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service has cared for extraordinary historic and cultural sites that are pivotal parts of the American narrative. Parks and our programs can be places of healing and reconciliation. As we gather at parks on this day across the country to commemorate the landing of enslaved Africans 400 years ago, we honor this powerful moment in American history and the significance of four centuries of African American history and culture.

Find a Bell

Your bell could be big, small, old, or new. It could be lots of little bells, one church bell, or a carillon. Be creative as you create a moment that has personal meaning, power, and resonance for you and your group. 

Make your connection–explore the messaging above about the symbolism of bells. Does your site feature a bell? Share a picture or story about a historic bell, maybe the bell of a ship, on a writing desk, in the collection, in a building, in transportation. What does your bell symbolize? Joy, work, celebration, time, education, technology? Can you connect it to the concept of healing and reconciliation?

Plan Your Event

The nationwide bell ringing will take place at 3:00 p.m. EDT on August 25, 2019, the 400th anniversary. Choose a location that accommodates your audience comfortably and, ideally, is a place that has a connection to your group or community’s unique story. You may want to gather a few minutes early to be sure you’re ready at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

Read the entire announcement here.

A quick Google search reveals that churches and denominations will taking-up the National Park Service’s call, including The Episcopal Church, USA.

Will evangelical churches ring their bells on August 25th?  I hope so.  But this might be difficult since most evangelical megachurches do not have church bells or steeples.  🙂

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr. Responds to Trump’s Use of Park Service Funds for His July 4th Event


Independence Hall has a repair backlog

I am proud of my United States senator.  Bob Casey joins U.S. representative Dwight Evans in this statement.  Get some context here.

PHILADELPHIA (July 3, 2019) – U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA-03) and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said Independence National Historical Park already has a multimillion-dollar backlog of repairs — and the Trump administration’s raiding $2.5 million of park maintenance funding for a partisan July Fourth event in Washington, D.C., will only make national parks’ conditions worse in Philadelphia and across the nation.

Congressman Evans said, “I have met with community groups in Philadelphia about the condition of Independence National Historical Park, and I share their concerns. I have co-sponsored the bipartisan Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act to dedicate a massive funding increase to address the repair backlog at Independence Park and across the country.

“Outrageously, the Trump administration is raiding $2.5 million in park maintenance funds for the Trump-centric July Fourth event in Washington, and the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have received VIP tickets to distribute to the July Fourth event. Our nation’s birthday is supposed to bring us together and instead President Trump is apparently using it for partisan political purposes. It’s disgusting.”

Senator Casey said, “After proposing steep cuts to the National Park Service, President Trump is now wasting their limited resources on what’s essentially a campaign rally on the government dime. Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is facing more than $51 million in deferred maintenance costs alone; we cannot afford any more of this President’s vanity projects.”

Evans represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Northwest and West Philadelphia and parts of North, South, Southwest and Center City Philadelphia.

Historians Urge the Passing of the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park Act


Historians Gregory Downs and Kate Masur urge Congress to pass the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park Act.  Here is a taste of their recent piece at The New York Times:

Many contemporary controversies over issues like voting rights and the scope of the government have their origins in the period following the Civil War. That era, known as Reconstruction, is one of the most contentious in this nation’s history, and also one of the most misunderstood.

Congress can help fix that by passing the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park Act before the end of the year. The bill, passed by the House in September and now under consideration in the Senate, would empower the National Park Service to connect Reconstruction sites all around the country; encourage visitors to talk about Reconstruction at local historical sites; and help convey the full story of how America was remade after the Civil War.

Reconstruction started in the early days of the Civil War. As United States forces entered the South, enslaved African Americans immediately pressed for freedom. They escaped to Union lines, demanded pay for their work, petitioned for their rights and served the Union war effort as laborers and soldiers. Some four million African Americans built new lives in freedom during the postwar Reconstruction era — reuniting families separated by slavery, building churches, founding schools and serving in government.

From 1865 to 1870, Congress passed, and the states ratified, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which permanently transformed the country. These Republican-led initiatives promised freedom, citizenship, due process and equal protection to everyone on American soil, and also prohibited racial discrimination in voting. These constitutional changes were so momentous that, in 2017, President Barack Obama called Reconstruction the nation’s Second Founding.

Read the rest here.

The National Park Service and American Amnesia About Reconstruction

Check out Maura Ewing’s piece at Pacific Standard on the ways the National Park Service is bring the Reconstruction Era to the forefront of America’s historical consciousness. Here is a taste:

During the restive years following the Civil War, the Era of Reconstruction—often referred to as the nation’s Second Founding or the first Civil Rights Movement—America saw a virulent backlash from white supremacists in response to profound political, economic, and educational gains made by African Americans. During these years, more African Americans held office than at any other period in American history; in 2014 Tim Scott became the first African-American United States Senator elected in South Carolina since Reconstruction. Newly freed slaves established churches, schools, and businesses, and negotiated labor contracts with their former owners. Simultaneously, the period saw the re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan, which used violence to impose a race-based social order where law no longer did; black codes were created to suppress African-American freedom, and segregation was institutionalized. White supremacists lynched an average of two to three African Americans weekly.

In more recent years, a somewhat unlikely agency—the National Park Service—has stepped up to consider how and whether to mark this period by way of national historic sites. In July the NPS released a report, the product of two years of commissioned academic research, detailing what events and locations should be marked for their historic significance relative to the Reconstruction era. It is a call for communities to take the next step and erect markers, with the agency’s support. The NPS’s ambition to have events of this era designated as National Historic Landmarks could have a great effect on the public’s understanding of racism’s pervasive roots in this country—a bold, and important, move for an agency that only recently began to take on the racial complexities of the Civil War.

Read the entire piece here.


The National Park Service Responds to Charlottesville


In the days following the events at Charlottesville, the National Park Service made a change to its description of Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s pre-Civil War home that now looks over Arlington National Cemetery.  Here is a taste of Russell Berman’s piece at The Atlantic:

As of August 4, according to a cache of the page accessed through, the Park Service described the Lee Memorial this way:

The Robert E. Lee Memorial honors Lee’s military and public leadership in pre- and post-Civil War America. Congress designated the memorial to recognize that “the desire and hope of Robert E. Lee for peace and unity within our Nation has come to pass.” From the portico you can contemplate our nation’s fate as you gaze across the river that once divided us.

The language now is different. The description lessens the focus on the memorial as a celebration of Lee and places it in a slightly more neutral context. It makes a new reference to “the most difficult aspects of American history,” including slavery:

Arlington House is the nation’s memorial to Robert E. Lee. It honors him for specific reasons, including his role in promoting peace and reunion after the Civil War. In a larger sense it exists as a place of study and contemplation of the meaning of some of the most difficult aspects of American History: military service; sacrifice; citizenship; duty; loyalty; slavery and freedom.

In a statement, the Park Service acknowledged it made the change this week but did not directly attribute it to the events in Charlottesville and the ensuing public debate over Confederate memorials.

“It is our mission to provide historical context that reflects a fuller view of past events and the values under which they occurred, and the update was made in that spirit,” the Park Service said. “The National Park Service is committed to sharing our nation’s history inclusively and holistically, and we have elicited scholars’ advice on how to present, more completely, the experience of those who were enslaved at Arlington House. Their stories will be prominently featured when the rehabilitation of the house, slave quarters, gardens, and exhibits is complete.”

Read the rest here.

Are National Parks Overused?


Yosemite National Park (Wikimedia Commons)

This article by journalist Jim Robbins at the website of the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies argues that so many Americans are visiting U.S. National Parks that they may be in jeopardy.

Here is a taste:

If these were not national parks, the solution would be to keep building more infrastructure. But the National Park Service has a dual mandate from Congress: to “provide for the enjoyment in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Wider roads and more hotels and campgrounds would only create sprawl, diminish the experience of nature, and encourage yet more people to come.

This crowding comes at an uncertain time for the parks. President Trump has proposed cutting the Park Service budget by 13 percent (which would be the largest cut to the agency since World War II), and there is already a backlog of staffing and maintenance issues.  And there is concern that the Trump Administration might move to make the parks even more friendly to commercial interests that would look bring in more visitors and more development. 

The visitor crush is creating two main problems – a steep decline in the quality of visitor experience that a national park is supposed to provide, and damaging impacts on the ecology of these intact natural places.

Read the entire piece here.

The Trump White House Needs Another Lesson in Historical Thinking

beautiful-day-to-seeStephen Miller, a senior aide of Donald Trump, is now telling reporters what is “ahistorical” and what is not.

In case you did not hear, today Trump and two United States Senators rolled out the “RAISE Act.”  In a nutshell, this law will limit future legal immigration to “highly skilled” workers and those who already speak English.

Today Miller met with reporters to answer questions about the RAISE Act.  Jim Acosta of CNN asked him if a bill limiting immigration to skilled workers and English-speakers violates the spirit of the words behind Emma Lazarus’s 1883 sonnet “The New Colossus.” Lazarus wrote “The New Colossus” to raise money for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  The statue was dedicated in 1886.  The “New Colossus” was engraved on a plaque inside the statue’s lower level in 1903.

I quote it here in full:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Here is the exchange between Miller and Acosta:

Several thoughts:

  1. Miller is technically right.  “The New Colossus” was added seventeen years after the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.
  2. Miller is wrong when he says that “The New Colossus,” with its reference to the “tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” was not connected in any way to the Statue of Liberty.  As noted above, Lazarus wrote it to raise money for the statue.
  3. Miller is probably correct to suggest that the addition of “The New Colossus” to the Statue of Liberty in 1903 turned the statue into a symbol of immigration.  One could even argue that the Statue of Liberty did not become associated with immigration until well after immigration to the United States dried in the wake of the 1924 Immigration Act.
  4. But all of these points miss Acosta’s argument.  Acosta wanted to know if the RAISE Act violates the spirit of American immigration as embodied in the words of Emma Lazarus.  Miller said that Acosta’s argument was “ahistorical” because he did not know that “The New Colossus” was added after the Statue of Liberty was raised.  Do you see what Miller is doing here?  He is practicing a form of misdirection.  His correction of Acosta on the facts is little more than a sneaky attempt to avoid the real question the CNN reporter asked about the connections between the past and present.  When Acosta asked about the relationship between the RAISE Act and the spirit of American immigration, he was asking a pretty good historical question. It deserved a better answer.  There is a difference between knowing facts about the past and doing history.
  5. Acosta could have responded to Miller’s misdirection without throwing the National Park Service under the bus.  The way Miller dealt with the past today bears little resemblance to the way the National Park Service promotes history.

The Basement of the Lincoln Memorial


Did you know that there is a 3-story, 43,800 square foot basement beneath the Lincoln Memorial?  The National Park Service wants to rehab this space in time for the Memorial’s centennial in 2022.

Atlas Obscura tells us more:

Construction began on the Lincoln Memorial in 1914 on the muddy stretch of land known as the Potomac flats. The Army Corps of Engineers had just finished its 40-year-long dredging and landfill project that produced the shoreline we know today. Workers had to dig down 40 feet before work could begin on the marble monument. Here they poured dozens of concrete columns to support the surface structure.

The underground cathedral of concrete pillars was then simply forgotten about until renovations in 1975. According to the Washington Post, in preparation for the Bicentennial, the memorial’s bathrooms were renovated, and the construction crews started peering into the building’s foundation. They brought along their friends, some of whom belonged to the National Speleological Society. The cellar was deemed a cave, complete with stalactites and its own ecosystem (insects, rodents, etc).

Read the rest here.

History of, and at, the National Park Service


Michael David Cohen, editor of the Correspondence of James K. Polk and Research Associate Professor of History at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, checks in with another post from the floor of the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians.  For his previous posts click here.  Enjoy–JF


Mammoth Cave. Denali. Great Smokey Mountains. Arcola Mills. The John, Abigail, and John Quincy Adams homes. Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s home. Through my youth and adulthood, I’ve made my way to these and many more of the sites operated by the National Park Service. No doubt, many of my fellow U.S. historians have, too. (And if you’ve never been to one, Robert Stanton wants to have a talk.) Our own experiences in the parks and their importance to the teaching of history to the American people made today’s plenary on “The National Park Service at 100: A Conversation with Robert Stanton” perfect for this year’s OAH conference.

None can speak about the NPS with more authority and experience than Dr. Stanton. Though he swore that he had not been around for the agency’s founding, he did draw on more than half a century of involvement with it. In 1962 he took a job as a seasonal ranger at Grand Teton. Rising through the ranks, he served as NPS’s director, 1997–2001. Though at some point he tried to retire, Stanton remains active in the parks and preservation community, having been appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation in 2014 and currently teaching as a visiting executive professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M.

Accompanying Stanton on the stage were two of our own, famed environmental historian William Cronon and chair Gary Nash. Joan Zenzen, though scheduled to speak, could not attend. (Her absence, as Dr. Nash forewarned us, rendered this an unconstitutional session; the OAH Constitution requires gender diversity on all panels. Microphone issues at the start were, perhaps, subtle punishment for the violation.)

Anxious to leave time for questions from his co-panelists and the audience, Stanton confined his initial remarks chiefly to a review of the NPS’s history. Created by a Congressional act of 1916 (as you probably guessed from the plenary’s title), the agency actually arose after the creation of about thirty federal parks, previously administered by the Interior Department with help from the War Department. Historic sites such as Civil War battlefields and cemeteries, Dr. Cronon noted, were shifted to its jurisdiction. Now the NPS controls about four hundred areas in every state and several territories. Besides its large paid workforce, it relies on nearly two hundred thousand volunteers.

Cronon introduced the issue of race, on which Stanton had much insight. The growth of the national park system, in his view, has been in part an effort to embrace the pronoun “we,” the first word of the U.S. Constitution and a symbol of unity with which Americans always have struggled. Until 1945 some national parks segregated camping facilities. Even thereafter, economic challenges and hoteliers’ legal right to refuse accommodations to African Americans made it impossible for most black families to take the road trip to a national park that became a tradition among middle-class whites. Although blacks were involved in land stewardship very early, only in the 1960s did the NPS begin recruiting African Americans such as Stanton into leadership positions.

The conversation, guided by the speakers and by audience members, headed down more paths about the national parks’ challenges and their roles in historical education than I can summarize here. Cronon stressed the parks’ outsized influence, through their choices about how to portray history and simply what history to portray, on lesson plans in schools. Nash pointed out that historic sites run by the NPS give many visitors to the United States their first lesson in American history.

Stanton presented a thoughtful and hopeful sketch of the national stories told by the parks. Through the addition of more sites (though, alas, rarely more money), the NPS has increasingly told the stories of minorities and of the elements of our history, such as slavery and segregation, that prompt lessons for improvement rather than opportunities for celebration. Some may fear, as Jack Nicholson did in A Few Good Men, that Americans “can’t handle the truth.” But, Stanton believes, we can handle it and must hear it.

Framing that thesis were the quotations with which Stanton began and ended the session. He first quoted Stephen Mather, founding director of the NPS, who asserted that visiting the national parks makes an American a better citizen. Today, it seems to me, if the parks teach historical lessons that few dared to propose in 1916, they are fulfilling Mather’s hope. Stanton closed by quoting Frederick Douglass, whose home joined the national park system in 1962, and who thus joined its family the same year as Stanton. Unity among turbulence and difference is the theme: “We differ as waves, but we are as one as the sea.”

–Michael David Cohen

National Parks and Difficult History

Little Rock Central High School

Over at We’re History, Benjamin Arrington of the National Park Service lists seven National Parks that are interpreting “difficult American history.”  They are:

1.  Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, MO
2.  Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka, KS
3.  Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Little Rock, AR
4.  Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, (various locations in nine states)
5.  Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, Eads, CO
6.  Manzanar National Historic Site, Independence, CA
7.  Flight 933 National Memorial, Shanksville, PA

Learn more about why these sites are so difficult by clicking here.

The National Park Service Wants Americans to Know About the Era of Reconstruction

Now that the 150th anniversary of the Civil War is done it is time for a similar commemoration of the long period of Reconstruction.  Unfortunately, Reconstruction has never quite captured the imagination of Americans in the way that the Civil War has done.  And why would it?  Reconstruction was messy.  And it ended with the “redemption” of the South and the subsequent era of Jim Crow.

But as Eric Foner and others have argued, Reconstruction. at least in its early years, was also a time of great opportunity and agency for the freemen living under the Radical Republican regime.

The National Park Service wants to make Americans aware of this history. A recent article in The New York Times describes what the NPS is up to:

The park service has played an important role in shaping, and reshaping, popular historical awareness. During the past two decades it has overhauled its Civil War sites, incorporating material on slavery into exhibits that had long been criticized by scholars for avoiding discussion of the root causes of the conflict.

But its 408 properties nationwide still do not include a single site dedicated to the postwar struggle to build a racially equal democracy.

“It’s the biggest gap in the park service by far,” said Robert Sutton, the service’s chief historian, adding that too many Americans still regard Reconstruction as “a disaster” best left forgotten.

To fill that gap, the service has hired two historians to conduct its first comprehensive survey of “nationally significant” sites connected with Reconstruction — the first step toward possible designation of a new site by Congress.

The initiative was announced in May. Since then, the massacre of nine African-Americans at a church in Charleston, S.C., in the midst of continuing debates over the Black Lives Matter campaign, has only underlined the enduring relevance of an era that saw both the dramatic expansion of rights for African-Americans and their violent rollback….

Historians have traditionally defined Reconstruction as lasting from 1865 until 1877, when most federal troops had withdrawn from the South and white supremacist Democrats gained control of state governments. The park service, echoing scholarly recalibrations, is taking a broader view, looking at sites dating from 1861, when slaves began fleeing to Union encampments, until 1898, when Jim Crow laws were fully in place.

The high-water years of Reconstruction included passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which granted equal citizenship and voting rights to 4 million formerly enslaved African-Americans, as well as the creation, for both blacks and whites, of the first statewide public school systems in the South, the first significant public hospitals, new labor policies and other transformations…

But Representative James E. Clyburn, a Democrat who represents part of Beaufort County in Congress, said a park service site, while “long overdue,” could meet “some resistance, maybe some significant resistance.”

“I don’t think it’s been poorly understood,” Mr. Clyburn, a former high school history teacher, said of Reconstruction. “I think it’s been intentionally misrepresented.”

Read the entire article here.

Ring a Bell to Remember Appomattox

If you are in or near Appomattox, Virginia or somewhere nearby, you may want to head over to the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park today to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.  

If you can’t make it, the National Park Service is encouraging the nation’s churches, temples, schools, city halls, public buildings, historic sites, and individuals to ring bells at 3:15 to commemorate the event.

Here is a taste of the press release from the National Park Service:

For the past four years, the National Park Service and many other organizations and individuals have been commemorating the 150thAnniversary of the Civil War and the continuing efforts for human rights today. On April 9, 1865, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant met Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to set the terms of surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
In conjunction with a major event at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, the National Park Service and its partners invite communities across the nation to join in this commemoration. The bells will ring first at Appomattox at 3:00 p.m. on April 9, 2015. The ringing will coincide with the moment the historic meeting between Grant and Lee in the McLean House at Appomattox Court House ended. While Lee’s surrender did not end the Civil War, the act is seen by most Americans as the symbolic end of four years of bloodshed.
After the ringing at Appomattox, bells will reverberate across the country. Churches, temples, schools, city halls, public buildings, historic sites, and others are invited to ring bells precisely at 3:15 pm for four minutes (each minute symbolic of a year of war). If you have access to any such organizations, please encourage them to participate.
The beginning of reconciliation and reconstruction, or as the next step in the continuing struggle for civil rights. Curriculum materials are available for schools interested in participating.
Share your story and help us write history!
Schools, parks, and communities from all over the country will be participating in this event. Share how you observed it with #BellsAcrosstheLand2015. Stories will be compiled in one place to see how each one helps build our national story.
Please join us in the historic commemoration. Let bells ring across the land!

How Lewis and Clark Became History

When did Americans become interested in Lewis and Clark’s journey’s through the Louisiana Territory?  The actual trip was made between 1804 and 1806, but the story of the journey did not become part of the popular American historical imagination until the1960s.  Natasha Geiling makes this argument at  Here is a taste of her post:

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the public and scholarly spheres connected to make Lewis and Clark the American icons they are today. In the academic world, the work of Donald Jackson changed the way the Lewis and Clark narrative was told. In the 1962 edition of the Lewis and Clark letters, Jackson wrote in his introduction that the Lewis and Clark expedition was more than the story of two men—it was the story of many people and cultures. 

Geiling also connects the popularity of Lewis and Clark to the founding of the Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail in 1969 and the publication of Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West