Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy - Forestry



First Advisor

Pat Stephens Williams

Second Advisor

Brian Oswald

Third Advisor

Ray Darville

Fourth Advisor

I-Kuai Hung

Fifth Advisor

Dayna Bowker lee


The objectives of this project were to determine the ways in which National Park Service (NPS) sites with a Civil War component are connecting or not with African American visitors and non-visitors. In order to meet the overarching objectives, two approaches were used which consisted of direct contact with the NPS sites and administering a site-specific questionnaire. Multiple attempts were made to contact 81 national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, and other type park designations. Of the 81 sites, 55 national park units responded to an eight plus two sub-question questionnaire. Interpreters at each site were asked about interpretive programming currently in existence; as well as programs that once existed but are no longer available. Additional information sought from the questionnaire included: type of programming offered, length of time program existed, success rate of programs, and annual percentage of African American visitors to the sites.

Additionally, NPS interpreters were permitted to make comments on any of the questions as well as other information they wanted to share regarding challenges and successes when trying to establish sustainable relationships with African Americans. Using a mixed methods approach, NPS staff comments were analyzed qualitatively through a three-step process which included open, axial,

and selective coding. Through selective coding, it was determined that the central phenomenon that affected NPS’s ability to connect with African Americans revolved around the issue of ‘noncommitment’. Quantitative analysis of the questionnaire suggested that some NPS sites have never purposefully tried to make meaningful connections with African Americans or have tried in the past but failed for various reasons.

A second questionnaire, designed for African American residents residing in the community of North Gulfport, Mississippi located near Gulf Island National Seashore (GUIS), indicated that more than half of the 40 participants had visited GUIS at some point, mostly with family members, and would “very likely” visit again since they felt safe while there. This implies that some African Americans from North Gulfport are visiting GUIS; however, they are not being enticed to participate in park activities outside of church and family gatherings.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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