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A Virginia State Parks road trip for Black History Month

by Staff

 

High Bridge Trail State Park

Starting at High Bridge Trail State Park in Farmville, visitors can stop by museums before hitting the High Bridge Trail for a walk or bike ride.

Visit the Robert Russa Moton Museum.

Participate in a Civil Rights Walking Tour of Farmville.

Read about the historic photo of High Bridge Watchman Uncle John.

Twin Lakes State Park

Swimming beach at Prince Edward State Park

Take a quick drive (20-30 minutes depending on where you park at High Bridge Trail) over to nearby Twin Lakes State Park to learn about the outcome of a suit to establish “separate but equal” facilities for blacks. Developed in 1950, Prince Edward State Park was the only state park for African Americans in Virginia. The two parks, Goodwin Lake and Prince Edward Lake ran as two racially segregated parks until they merged in 1976.

Read about the impact of Maceo Conrad Martin, the civil rights activist who filed a suit after being denied entry to Staunton River State Park due to his race – resulting in Prince Edward State Park.

Check out the History of a Pre-Civil Rights Era State Park.

Learn about the African-American Civilian Conservation Corps, Camp Gallion, responsible for the construction of fire roads and other improvements in this area that became Twin Lakes State Park by visiting Shelter 2 to find educational plaques. Learn more about Camp Gallion and member Dr. Rev. John Henry Brown by watching a video of the dedication.

Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park

Hillsman House at Sailor's Creek Battlefield State Park

Learn about the active role of African-American soldiers in the American Civil War Appomattox Campaign by traveling 20 minutes north to Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park. Visitors can also participate in a guided tour of the Hillsman House and explore an 11-mile section of the historic “Lee’s Retreat” driving tour.

Read about Sailor’s Creek Battlefield history and the connection to Dr. Moton, a giant of early 20th-century academia.

Pocahontas State Park

Camp 7 Lake Otter Lick Loop trail crossing

Next up, Pocahontas State Park (an hour drive northeast of Twin Lakes) will be offering a Group Camp 7 Tour. Learn about how the land was segregated and the history of exclusion in recreational spaces. While at the park, stop by the CCC Museum and enjoy a few of the more than 90 miles of trails.

Reserve your spot for the Group Camp 7 Tour on February 17, 2024.

Read about the Mysteries of Group Camp 7.

Chippokes State Park

Quarter Lane at Chippokes State Park

Travel east to the banks of the James River (about an hour drive), where Chippokes State Park’s history has direct links to the time of enslavement. Join the Quarter Lane Walking Tour and learn the important narratives of those who worked and lived here over the years, on one of the oldest continually farmed plantations in the US.

Mark your calendar for the Black History Month: Quarter Lane Walking Tour on February 3 and 17, 2024.

York River State Park

Taskinas Creek at York River State Park is a Chesapeake Bay National  Estuarine Research Reserve

Take the 30-minute Jamestown-Scotland Ferry to Williamsburg and drive north an additional half hour to York River State Park, a pristine Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. At this park, visitors have the opportunity to learn how African slavery began in the Virginia Colony and hear courageous stories of how they overcame challenging terrain to elude their oppressors. A month-long display will also share the heritage of black watermen and their important role in the Chesapeake Bay seafood industry.

Mark your calendar for the Rebellion & Runaway Walk on February 10, 2024.

Check out the Afro American Waterman’s Display in the visitor center.

Widewater State Park

Historical marker for Palmer Hayden

A drive north (2 hours) to Widewater State Park, located on a peninsula where Aquia Creek and the Potomac River meet, offers a treat for art lovers as well as history buffs. Renowned American Artist Palmer Hayden was born in this area and a historical marker, a short walk from the visitor center, celebrates his life and major contribution to the art world.

Read about the 2020 unveiling of this Virginia Department of Historical Resources marker.

Leesylvania State Park

Underground railroad display at Leesylvania State Park

Nearby (about a 30-minute drive) Leesylvania State Park’s rich history will be showcased through its Underground Railroad display for most of the month. While in the area, visitors can also make a stop at the Alexandria Black History Museum.

Check out the Freedom Quilts Display and Crafts in the visitor center from February 10-29, 2024.

Read about the Underground Railroad’s Network to Freedom at Leesylvania State Park.

Visit the Alexandria Black History Museum.

Continuing learning

Although Leesylvania State Park may bring this road trip to an end, it’s just the beginning of the journey.

There is much to learn and celebrate during Black History Month across the commonwealth. For more inspiration on exploring the black history in Virginia State Parks, click here.

Map of parks along the road trip for Black History

If you have read the article and have a question, please email [email protected].

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