African American History and Virginia’s National Parks

Dr. Devlin gave an account of African American experiences in the nation’s parks. This is in collaboration of her research grant. She focused the talk on public history and an in-depth look at two worksites in Virginia. The national parks under the administration of Roosevelt were updated by a new deal program called the Civilian Conservation Corps. Devlin discussed how African Americans often did explementary work and were asked to stay on but were pushed out of the CCC, workers were only allowed to serve for a maximum of two years though the park service afterwards hired some. Devlin also discussed the type of work the African Americans did in the CCC. African Americans often did some of the more menial labor including moving and planting trees to create a scenic view. Some African Americans did do archeological work under the supervision of whites. African Americans were never supervisors except for the one mandated site in Pennsylvania, and then only to other African Americans.  The black camps, where they were barracked, were usually specially placed by the leadership of the CCC near urban black populations to lessen the possible outcry from the resident populations. Devlin’s talk gave some insight into how African-Americans interacted with New Deal programs in the 1930’s and how the public saw large African Americans groups moving towards their homes.

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