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National Park Service: Digital Storytelling Ambassadors Program

Case Studies

National Park Service: Digital Storytelling Ambassadors Program

Emily Paulos

As part of the lead up to the 2013 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington D.C. for Jobs and Justice, the event that gave us Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the National Park Service engaged in a number of activities commemorating the civil rights movement. The Park Service's Office of Interpretation and Education, in collaboration with the National Mall and Memorial Parks and important African American D.C.-based National Historic Sites including the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House and Carter G. Woodson Home, sponsored programs to call attention to local civil rights history. The Park Service was particularly interested in connecting young college students with historic places, and with community members who attended the March and engaged in other forms of civil rights activism.

To support these efforts, StoryCenter staff led three digital storytelling workshops from November 2011 through November 2012, to capture a group of stories in a collaboration with students from local Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and supported by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the organization founded by Carter G. Woodson. The workshops focused on intergenerational sharing, empowering storytellers to interpret and discover civil rights history, and giving participants a deep appreciation of the legacy of activists' efforts to bring about social change in the United States.

In 2012, these powerful stories were shared at the Carter G. Woodson Home, as part of a birthday commemoration for the late leader. Later, they became the inspiration for our All Together Now initiative.

Dr. Joy Kinard’s story describes her family's role in the National Park Service. Dr. Kinard’s “Uncle Bill,” William D. Kinard Ph.D. and Robert G. Stanton became the first African American Park Rangers at the Grand Teton National Park, integrating the Park Service the same summer as the March on Washington. Dr. Kinard continues her family’s tradition – her first job in the Park Service was at the Frederick Douglass Home, she was recently selected as the first Superintendent of the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.

Marjorie Kinard's story traces her family’s history through the brutal injustices of Jim Crow, the non-violent protests of the Civil Rights Movement, and witnessing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life-changing speech during the March on Washington in 1963.

Tazwell Franklin’s story (below) speaks to Carter G. Woodson’s direct influence on his family and their hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. 

Photo credit: Frederick Douglass Home National Historic Site (Cedar Hill) after restoration in 1972. National Park Service.