Independence Day(s)!

We have made several visits and interviewed many, many Rangers and historians at or about Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, PA. There are so many stories to be told about this seat of freedom and independence for the 13 colonies that became the United States that it's difficult to choose what to cull. But we're doing it with great deliberation for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

Sad notes to the freedoms declared: they did not include black African slaves, who continued to be "owned property" for more than another century.  They did not include Native Americans who were pushed off of their lands, lost their honored resources and buried ancestors, and who were treated dishonorably and violently by the military and political powers across the land, in perhaps the most horrendous and ruthless genocide in the long history of humankind. What price freedom? For these peoples, a price too high to bear.

In November of 1775, the royal governor of Virginia, Lord John Dunmore, made this proclamation guaranteeing freedom to slaves and indentured servants; "...I hereby declare all indented [sic] servants, Negroes, or others free, that are able and willing to bear arms, they joining His Majesty's Troops..." We are preparing a Stories and Legends audio conversation segment with Prof. Gary Nash, Historian at UCLA Berkley, in which he discusses this and other oppressive measures heaped onto blacks in the colonies, and the infant U.S.

In another part of the conversation with Prof. Nash he offers us insight into two different groups that were formed around 1775 to assist slaves: The Pennsylvania Abolition Society, in which Benjamin Franklin played a prominent role, and the Free African Society of Philadelphia. Mutually exclusive, the former wrote their own proposed Constitution in 1787 and also adopted an aggressive strategy of litigation on behalf of free blacks; and they petitioned the Constitutional Convention delegates to prohibit the slave trade.

 Society of Friends Meeting House

Society of Friends Meeting House

 

Several members of religious groups supported abolition, among them Unitarians, Wesleyan, Presbyterian and Quakers. At risk to their own safety and freedom, many of them actively aided runaway slaves

Here we go!

 Jeff with Ranger Scott Houting at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Jeff with Ranger Scott Houting at Valley Forge National Historical Park

 Frederick William Baron von Steuben (not actual guy...)

Frederick William Baron von Steuben (not actual guy...)

We had some beautiful spring days when we visited Valley Forge National Historical Park to speak with Ranger Scott. We met Scott at the Visitor's Center for a little discussion then drove out to see the reproduced troop huts along one of the original perimeter lines of the encampment. From there...

 

One of the stories we're telling from the Valley Forge encampment over the winter of 1777-78 is about the would be Prussian Army general, Baron von Steuben. He had been recommended to the 2nd Continental Congress and General Washington by... Ben Franklin! But von Steuben imposed order and discipline on the Continental troops and shaped the 11,500 (est) men into a cohesive fighting force. Over and over, they were drilled on the Grand Parade Grounds at Valley Forge until they knew every movement to effectively counter the British.

 The Grand Parade Grounds

The Grand Parade Grounds

It's National Park Week!

"Find Your Park!" this week. Through April 26th celebrate National Park Week. Make a connection to your favorite National Park at http://nps.gov

Our team has just completed its interviews and visits to Valley Forge National Historical Park near Philadelphia PA. In the next few days we will post here with photos and the inside story. We are already in pre-production for radio and podcast segments and will be producing a promotional video as well. We will provide links for you to find everything easily. Meantime, please visit our Donate page and help us out.

After the Storm

 Trudging up to the Great Arch of Victory

We visited Valley Forge National Historical Park the day after the big snowstorm hit the Philadelphia area. Brent (our audio engineer) and I drove and tramped through a few areas of the park to shoot some photos, take in the winter that General Washington's troops would have experienced in 1777-78, and chatted with two helpful Rangers in the Visitor's Center. Restored barrack huts are there and look none too comfortable, yet better than tents or lean-to's. They held out the snow and wind but, unfortunately, could not hold out diseases, from which about 1,500 people died during the encampment.

We're waiting for our Special Permit to be approved before we can go back to record sounds and conversations that will be used to produce a great story or two. The photos we are sharing here were taken by Brent.

 

Part of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area

Inscribed at the top of the Great Arch: "Naked and starving as they are we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery".  -- General George Washington

The restored Covered Bridge

Free Visit Days This Year

The National Park Foundation recently announced Fee-Free Days for all National Park units for 2015. Here they are:

  • February 14-16: Presidents Day Weekend
  • April 18-19: Opening Weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 26: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

Set the dates with an advance reminder in your digital device to plan your visits without forgetting. And register with NPF to get all the latest from the GoParks eNewsletter and the Centennial Celebrations. (Don't forget to donate!)

Spring is coming! Time to plan your National Park vacation!

Come along for the ride!

We are just about to get under way with this project about the National Park Service (NPS). Excitement, adventure, and possibilities abound for the upcoming Centennial Year. Not only for us, but mostly for you. Especially if you're passionate about our National Parks. We are quite a good radio and podcasting team, ready to find and tell the stories and legends of selected park units, from the northeastern U.S. to Hawaii and Alaska.

We would like you to be a part of this because your help is invaluable. How? First, talk to your friends about your favorite park and urge them to visit. Next, find an urban park close to home and spend some time there. You will find it to be surprising, fulfilling and entirely enjoyable. Third, tell us about your favorite park and a favorite story from one of your visits. Who knows? We may want to talk with you if we find your story compelling.

So enjoy keeping up with our posts here as we make our way around to parks around the country, leave us your comments, and look for our podcast links as we move forward. This will be an ongoing project through the NPS Centennial Year in 2016.