Interpreting Reconstruction in the National Parks
Kathleen McClain Jenkins, National Park Service
Turkiya Lowe, National Park Service
Lizzie Watts, National Park Service
With the 150th anniversary of the end of the battlefield fighting, public attention is turning to the anniversaries of Reconstruction and the post-war period. An important part of the challenge of shaping public memory of this crucial but much-misunderstood period lies with the National Park Service, which has done significant work in addressing the portrayal of slavery, the coming of the Civil War, and the role of freedpeople in the Civil War. What remains to be done is to address the treatment of Reconstruction in the National Park Service. To that end, the National Park Service has commissioned a National Historic Landmark Theme Study on the Era of Reconstruction, in hopes that this will produces a set of guidelines for bringing discussion of Reconstruction to existing parks and for contemplating a proposal for a national park devoted to Reconstruction. Currently there are no parks devoted to Reconstruction and emancipation. This roundtable includes National Park Service historians and superintendents who play important roles in this process and who work in a range of places and roles, from the Natchez region to the South Carolina coast to the Andrew Johnson site in eastern Tennessee, as well as the regional historian for the South. They will discuss what is currently being done at national park sites, the particular challenges of portraying Reconstruction in their areas, and the role that academic historians can play in this process.