Missing Voices: Participants' Narratives of the National Park Service's Summer in the Parks Program [1968-1976]

Felicia Garland-Jackson

Major Professor: Dae Young Kim, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Members: Rutledge Dennis, Debra Lattanzi Shutika

The Hub (SUB II), #VIP 3
April 25, 2018, 11:30 AM to 01:30 PM

Abstract:

Against the backdrop of the racial tension and rioting that enveloped Washington D.C. in 1968, the National Park Service (NPS), launched an innovative, community-based recreational program called Summer in the Parks (SITP).  This collaborative effort was designed to bring local residents into national parks and other locations across the city. It was created by a coalition of NPS officials, local African American leaders, volunteer organizations, and public space experts.  SITP offered a variety of free, structured programming including concerts, children's enrichment programs, and recreational opportunities.  From the Park Service's institutional perspective, SITP succeeded in correcting the organization's history of segregation while providing a diversion to mitigate future violence.  However, the perspectives of participants were not documented, resulting in a one-dimensional historical account.  As the 50th anniversary of SITP (1968-1976) approaches, this study focused on culturally documenting the participants' missing voices by gathering memories of their SITP experiences through in-depth, in-person interviews with metro D.C. area residents.  Collected data was coded and analyzed with findings reflecting themes of nostalgia, community and cultural identities, as well as institutional failures and the long-term effects of racism and segregation. This research and its collection of missing African American voices will further contribute to the important work of archiving oral histories of the African American Experience.