Trust for Public Land supporters have long helped preserve and create public access to the places that tell the story of Black life in America.
By Trust for Public Land
Published February 1, 2021
The National Register of Historic Places lists over 95,000 entries, from the famous (the Statue of Liberty) to the infamous (Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay) to the downright strange (a six-story elephant statue outside of Atlantic City named Lucy). Despite the extraordinary range of places that have earned a spot on the register, just 3 percent of its sites focus on the experiences of Black Americans, according to a this 2020 story in the New Yorker.
Trust for Public Land supporters have long helped preserve and create public access to the outdoor spaces that tell the story of Black life in America. We’ve worked closely with communities across the country to lift up the lessons our history has to offer, and strengthen a connection to our nation’s shared heritage. Learn more and explore below.
African Meeting House (Boston, Massachusetts)
Once a key gathering place for giants of the abolitionist movement, Boston’s African Meeting House is now the oldest remaining Black church structure in the United States—and home to the Museum of African American History—Boston and Nantucket. When the museum outgrew its headquarters, Trust for Public Land supporters helped it expand.
American Beach (Amelia Island, Florida)
In Jim Crow-era Florida, most beaches were off limits to Black visitors. American Beach was an exception: founded by Abraham Lincoln Lewis, the state’s first Black millionaire, the resort thrived through the 1950s, attracting cultural icons like Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong. We helped conserve a stretch of the beachfront as public land, including the historic Evans’ Rendezvous nightclub. Nassau County recently received a grant from the National Park Service to document the historic structure.
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (Wilberforce, Ohio)
The first Black colonel in the United States Army, Charles Young led the Buffalo Soldiers, the United States’ first Black cavalry, and was eventually appointed the first Black superintendent in the National Park Service, a position which he held until his death with full military honors in 1922. With our help, President Obama paid tribute to Young’s story by declaring Young’s Ohio family home a national monument in 2015.
Ebenezer Creek (Springfield, Georgia)
On December 9, 1864, hundreds of formerly enslaved people died trying to cross Ebenezer Creek, fleeing Confederate troops. Public outcry over the deaths led President Abraham Lincoln to issue orders that were intended to redistribute to formerly enslaved people 400,000 acres of confiscated coastal property in 40-acre tracts. The order was revoked by President Andrew Johnson following Lincoln’s death. We worked with the City of Springfield to protect the site of the tragedy as a historical park.
Fort George Island (Jacksonville, Florida)
We helped the National Park Service protect 4 acres of coastal forest on Fort George Island in Florida’s Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. The island was once home to a formerly enslaved woman named Anna Kinglsey, who managed a large plantation on the site in the early 1800s.
Horace King Historic Site (Whitesburg, Georgia)
Born into slavery in 1807, architect and engineer Horace King grew up to become the most sought-after bridge builder in the South during the 19th century, completing dozens of structures throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. One of his bridges, at Moore’s Crossing on the Chattahoochee River outside of Atlanta, was ultimately burned by Union troops during the Battle for Atlanta in 1864. We protected Moore’s Bridge Park and the Horace King Historic Site in 2009.
John Brown Fort (Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia)
In an unassuming engine house at Murphy’s Farm in Harper’s Ferry, abolitionist John Brown and a small force of enslaved people who took shelter following their 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. In 1906, W.E.B. Dubois and other black leaders made a pilgrimage to “John Brown’s Fort” to honor the effort during the second meeting of the Niagara Movement—the forerunner to the NAACP.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park (Atlanta, Georgia)
Since the late 1970s, we’ve protected more than a dozen properties around Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home near downtown Atlanta. Today, more than a million visitors a year tour the national historical park dedicated to his life and legacy.
Meadowood (Simsbury, Connecticut)
As a teenager, Martin Luther King Jr. spent summers as a field hand on a tobacco farm in the Connecticut River Valley. Historians say the experience shaped Dr. King’s worldview in important ways. But today, the story of his time in this valley isn’t well known, even by many locals. We’re working alongside the community to preserve what remains of this farm as a public park and historic site.
Monroe School (Topeka, Kansas)
This brick-and-stone schoolhouse in Topeka, Kansas, became a flashpoint of the civil rights movement through its students’ involvement as plaintiffs in Brown v. the Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in America’s public schools.
Morris Island (Charleston, South Carolina)
If you’ve seen the movie Glory, you know Morris Island: it’s the site of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, led by the Black Union soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. We helped purchase and permanently protect the island for the public, ensuring that the memory of the troops’ sacrifice lives on.
Nicodemus National Historic Site (Nicodemus, Kansas)
Nicodemus, Kansas, is the oldest—and the only remaining—Black settlement west of the Mississippi River. The site is still home to several descendants of the original settlers. An Act of Congress designated it as a National Historic Site in 1996, helping to tell the story of African Americans who played a role in our nation’s westward expansion. In 1998, we helped protect the African Methodist Episcopalian (AME) Church, built in 1885, as one of five historic buildings that are part of the National Historic Site. Today, the site does not have a permanent visitor center. We’re working with the National Park Service and the Nicodemus Historical Society to establish a site for a new visitor center.
Pullman National Monument (Chicago, Illinois)
The neat brick homes and warehouses at the Pullman National Monument date to the 1880s, when they sprang up as the company town and headquarters of a major rail-car manufacturer. We helped the National Park Service acquire the site in the 2000s. Today, the monument honors the courage and tenacity of labor leaders who strove for equal representation and safe working conditions for Black workers.
Riverside Heritage Park (Princeville, North Carolina)
Princeville was the nation’s first town founded by emancipated Black people after the Civil War. In 1999, the town was devastated by flooding from Hurricane Floyd. As part of the recovery, we helped Princeville purchase 11 acres for the town’s first park.
Wells’Built Hotel (Orlando, Florida)
The Wells’Built Hotel was one of the few lodgings in segregated Orlando that welcomed Black people—including celebrities such as Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington. We helped conserve the building, which is now a museum dedicated to African American history and culture.
We’re continuing to work alongside communities to preserve the places that matter and to create a more accurate and equitable public memory of American history. Learn more about our work and join us today.