One America - Underground Railroad Education and Preservation Initiative

Program: Underground Railroad Education and Preservation Initiative, Washington, D.C.
Contact(s): Nat Wood, Special Assistant to the Director, National Park Service: (202) 208-3080
Purpose: To coordinate nationwide education and preservation efforts relating to the Underground Railroad

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The Underground Railroad Education and Preservation Initiative was created to foster an appreciation for the efforts of black and white abolitionists, enslaved African Americans, Native Americans, and religious group members who worked together to find ways to escape slavery in the southern United States before the Civil War. Implemented by the National Park Service the initiative coordinates education and preservation efforts nationwide and weaves unique local historic places into community, regional and national accounts of this pre-civil war movement.

Program Operations

The Underground Railroad Initiative is not a centralized program, but rather a collection of projects at every level of the National Park Service, from individual parks to national programs, and involves many partners, from state and local historical societies to national organizations. In response to the growing trend towards heritage tourism, the park service's National Register of Historic Places office has developed a flexible itinerary to help travelers plan trips to visit historic sites that played a role in the Underground Railroad. The project also includes park-based educational programs, including a Boston African American National Historic Site, which presents a puppet show on the Underground Railroad allowing children to identify with historical figures. The National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places program is developing lesson plans to help educators teach about Underground Railroad sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Underground Railroad Handbook is an illustrated 87-page book including artwork, graphics and historical documents, as well as essays by noted scholars and suggested sources for further information. The park service has also published the Underground Railroad Interpretive Pamphlet, a full-color, fold-out pamphlet with illustrations and brief information on the slave trade and abolitionist leaders like Frederick Douglass and Harriett Tubman.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

Much of the interest in the Underground Railroad has sprung up at the community level. Cooperative agreements at the national, regional and park levels will continue to allow the National Park Service to provide assistance to other federal, state and local agencies, private organizations and educational institutions interested in documenting, preserving and interpreting the Underground Railroad. Technical assistance includes support for historic preservation, archeological and historical research and education programs.

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