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The Civil Rights Movement and the Future of the National Park System in a Racially Diverse America

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Abstract:

The U.S. National Park System contains places of world-renowned beauty and tremendous historical significance that represent some of the central values and experiences in American culture, democracy, and freedom for everyone, for all time. However, the vast majority of visitors to these parks are white, which has increasingly been seen as a problem as it suggests a lack of full participation by all members of society. While there are several perspectives on low minority visitation, it is possible that park policies or interpretation may not appeal to, or may unintentionally exclude minority visitors. This study examines how efforts to expand the inclusiveness and representativeness of the park system may affect its geography. Recent National Park Service plans to commemorate the Civil Rights movement are examined with the goal of understanding how the geography and purpose of the park system may be changed over time. The expansion of the park system into cultural themes will likely necessitate a continual expansion of the number and kinds of park units.

Keywords: African Americans; Civil Rights tourism; National parks; historic site

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14616688.2012.675515

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA 2: Department of Geography, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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