Welcome to the National Park
Memory Trail

Honoring and exploring our nation's tragic and triumphant journey from Civil War to Civil Rights…and beyond.

In 2011 Americans began looking back to look ahead—as we entered a five year period of 150th anniversary commemorations of the Civil War years. The war that split our republic also began the process of incorporating all citizens of every background into the fabric of our nation. Our National Parks belong to all of us, and give every visitor a chance to touch the past which shapes our future. Inspired by sequence of anniversaries, the National Park Service now invites high school classes to join in a national digital project on the broader theme of Emancipation.

The National Park Service invites students to create short digital narratives on one of three themes:

  • My area in the last days of legal slavery, 1861-1865: using maps, photos, illustrations, census data, telling incidents from local newspapers, and (when available) National Park materials—students will create a portrait of where they live as it was when President Lincoln was preparing to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • A civil rights hero from my area one hundred years later, in the 1960s—by seeking out and interviewing a veteran of the struggle for equal rights, or finding existing oral histories, and/or maps, photos, illustrations, census data, and local news stories and national park materials, students will tell the story of someone in their area who brought about change in the 1960s.
  • The road ahead—students seek to link the past history of emancipation with what they see as the key freedoms to be fought for as they come to adulthood

While we invite students to begin their research using local resources, we recognize that many young people will have strong personal and family attachments to other parts of the world. Our National Parks belong to everyone, from those whose ancestors lived here for thousands of years to those who have just arrived. Projects that explore connections between events here in the Civil War to Civil Rights years and developments in other lands are expressly encouraged.

Narratives will be gathered from schools throughout the nation and placed on a special National Park Service website which we are calling a "National Park Memory Trail." The entry to the site will be a map and each accepted project will be a clickable "location" on the trail. Participating students, their communities, and a broad National Park audience of all ages will then be able to use the site as window into key moments in our national life, as they were experienced locally, and as a virtual memorial for the momentous journey upon which President Lincoln embarked 150 years ago.

If you are a teacher, librarian, or student who wants to become a part of the memory trail for this anniversary event, please Join Us! On that page you can find out more about becoming a Memory Trail Site and download our student project description: Student Guide PDF.