Tag Archives: Frederick Douglass

6 national parks celebrating Black History Month

traveltoparks ourbestplaces

In honor of Black History Month, let’s look at some national park units celebrating African Americans who helped mold this nation with grit, intelligence and, often, wit.

Here are several of my favorites:

African Burial Ground National MonumentNew York. An intense spot for contemplation amid the bustle of Lower Manhattan.

Boston African American National Historic Site, Massachusetts. In the heart of Boston, these sites celebrate freedom. They include the oldest African American church in the US, which dates from 1806.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, District of Columbia. Douglass’ home is so well preserved that it feels as if the great human rights activist has stepped away for just a moment.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia and Maryland. This is a fascinating place where energy, nature, personalities and ideologies have converged time-and-again.

Lincoln Memorial, District of Columbia. Larger than life. Period.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Florida. Equal parts thrilling and chilling where the lines of slavery became blurred.

There are many more National Park Service sites celebrating African American heritage. Explore them here. 

A few of my favorite Frederick Douglass quotes:

“People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

“The American people have this to learn: that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”

Find your park. 

Photo courtesy of the NPS.

Buy the book! Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.


7 tips for celebrating an epic year in parks – Tip #2

traveltoparks ourbestplaces

Celebrations are already in full swing for the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. If you’re planning a park visit this year–and I strongly encourage it!–I’ve pulled together some pointers for how to get the most out of your adventure(s). The next installment:

Tip #2. Go off-peak. 

If you simply must see Yosemite this year (who could blame you?), aim for a month less-traveled. A large majority of visitors to Yosemite–and Yellowstone and Arches for that matter–go in June, July and August. There are lots of reasons that makes sense; the kids are on break, the weather is nice, all the concessions are open.

But traveling in the off-season, or even the shoulder season, has big rewards. The primary one, of course, is not being elbow-to-elbow with other park-goers. Last year in Yosemite, for example, the spring and fall brought fewer crowds (281,328 visitors in April and 357,223 in October versus more than 600,000 in both July and August).

Another perk is that parks have spectacular features to offer in “off” seasons–with decent winter snowfall in the high country, Yosemite Valley in springtime is a riot of waterfalls whereas, after a dry summer, they can peter out by August. In September in Yellowstone, visitors experience elk in their “rut,” or mating season, and wildlife in general become more visible as the drive to fatten up for the winter draws them out of seclusion.

A related tip:

Stay local. If summer is your prime vacation window, why not consider hitting the parks in your area? Lots of people are surprised to learn they have a national park unit in their backyards. Such as:

BOSTON. Within a couple of hours of Boston there are nearly two dozen national park units, including several of my favorites: the Frederick Law Olmsted Historic Site, a hidden jewel that gives national park lovers an extraordinary context for conservation in the U.S. Not to miss also is the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, of which luminary scientist E.O. Wilson says, “There are wildernesses at your feet.”

NEW YORK. Sure you’ve heard about the Statue of Liberty but what about the Hamilton Grange National Memorial in Harlem, dedicated to the controversial forefather who ascended from being an orphan to being Washington’s trusted advisor? New York has dozens of such fascinating parks celebrating the state’s phenomenal social, political, cultural and natural history. Ask me a thousand times which parks are my favorites and I’ll always include the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan. It is simply one of the most goose bump-raising places on the planet.

WASHINGTON, D.C. Lincoln Memorial, check. Jefferson Memorial, check. But consider also the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. It has the most original artifacts on-site of any national park unit. The presence of that brilliant human rights leader still lingers here. If I lived near there I swear I’d be a ‘regular’.



Photo of the African Burial Ground courtesy of the NPS.

Buy the book! Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Out of One, Many

I came across this EarthCam the other day which gives a live feed from the top of the Washington Monument. It’s fun to look at on any ole day but right now gives a particularly captivating look at a current art installation on the National Mall. In the camera view, the work of artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada is on the left side of the Reflecting Pool. The dirt and sand portrait, called “Out of Many, One,” echoes the Latin phrase seen on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum.” The portrait was envisioned “to create a dialogue around the ideas of individuality, community, and place,” says Rodríguez-Gerada. It is of no one in particular and, at the same time, of every one.

It’s fitting the portrait was installed in the nation’s capital and at a national park. Its themes are alive and well throughout the monuments and memorials of the Capital Parks region of Washington, D.C. and at many more national park units which celebrate diversity. From the well-known Statue of Liberty National Monument (including Ellis Island) and Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial to the lesser-known African Burial Ground National Monument and César E. Chávez National Monument, dozens of national park units remind us of all the colors, cultures and credos which unite us in differentness. Frederick Douglass (whose life and work are interpreted at a phenomenal historic site) said, “We differ as the waves, but are one as the sea.”

See how the portrait looks from space, watch a video on how it was created, and read more from the artist at the Smithsonian National Portrait Galley site.

Learn more about the National Park Service.

Support the National Park Service.

© Heather Hansen