National Park Service To Look At American History Of Lesbians, Gays, Transgenders, And Bi-Sexuals

The role that lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, and transgender individuals played in the history of the United States is to be explored by the National Park Service, which will launch the effort Tuesday with a panel discussion involving Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and the U.S. ambassador to Australia along with LGBT scholars and historians.

The goal of the initiative is to identify places and events associated with the story of LGBT Americans for inclusion in the parks and programs of the National Park Service.

The discussion Tuesday will explore ways to celebrate and interpret lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history in the context of broader American history, a release from the Interior Department said. Prior to the panel discussion, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Ambassador John Berry will deliver kick-off remarks.

The goals of the heritage initiative include: engaging scholars, preservationists and community members to identify, research, and tell the stories of LGBT associated properties; encouraging national parks, national heritage areas, and other affiliated areas to interpret LGBT stories associated with them; identifying, documenting, and nominating LGBT-associated sites as national historic landmarks; and increasing the number of listings of LGBT-associated properties in the National Register of Historic Places.

The history of Civil Rights underscores a large part of American experience. The National Park Service is proud to be a part of this continuing legacy of freedom and justice. Directed by Americans to steward and teach the nation’s history, the National Park Service connects and amplifies important national stories in cooperation with partner communities across the United States.

You can add your comments to this discussion at this website.


Interesting. I wonder what sites are being considered.

At the risk of being called a biggot I find this a waste of resources given the parks current financial situation. It's also hard for me to see where this fits with the mission of the park service.

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

It would seem to fall within the scope of the bolded terms of the mission.

Oh crap, the NPS routinely condemns cultural resources to museum pieces then reconstructs them situated in some interprative centers. Is that what's intended here? Few things surprise me in this climate. Social engineering has nothing to do with what these natural wonders impart. Let whatever persuasion find peace where it can be found in these humbling places. PC really isn't the realm of NPS, I don't believe. Stick to the basics where we can all live.

The history of Civil Rights underscores a large part of American experience. The National Park Service is proud to be a part of this continuing legacy of freedom and justice.

Sounds good to me, and a good use of my tax dollars.

We've had our issues, Rick B. It's been your career to deal with personal issues being a Psych Tech. I don't believe draging personal issues into the National Parks which are nearly a supreme environment for what's natural is appropriate. Just blaze on into any number of environments represented by these parks and you are transformed. Let's not make it the other way around. Don't like segmented user groups when refering to the Parks or nature in general. You want me to count the ways NPS has assaulted cultural history to accomodate the power structure of elitest grandiosity? You really don't want me to go there (respectfully).

Actually, as a psych nurse, not a tech, I helped patients who had psychiatric diagnoses. Personally, I don't think that one's orientation is an 'issue' and it is definitely not a diagnosis. People having their own pathological issues with sexual minorities is indeed a sad part of our nation's history, and that is worthy of documentation. If you don't want to be part of that conversation, I'm certain there are many other issues elsewhere you can spend your mental calories on.

And no, I don't particularly want you " to count the ways NPS has assaulted cultural history to accomodate the power structure of elitest grandiosity" but if you feel compelled, there is always the ignore button.

Just more evidence the DOI and NPS are being severely mismanaged. This is the absolute last thing they need to worry about, just shameful they gave this subject a millisecond of their time.

I imagine the Stonewall Inn would be an obvious (and worthy) candidate for inclusion given that it's already a National Historical Landmark.

I imagine the Stonewall Inn would be an obvious (and worthy) candidate for inclusion given that it's already a National Historical Landmark.

I think this is long overdue. LGBT contributions to American history are routinely ignored or disputed, and I'm glad to see the NPS take part in correcting this.

While it sounds like they are mostly targeting sites associated with the 20th century gay rights movement (e.g., Harvey Milk's photo shop in San Francisco, Frank Kameny house in DC), I'd like to see them cover other issues as well. For example, the contributions of LGBT individuals to major American cultural movements, such as the Harlem Renaissance or Transcendentalism. (These movements already have many associated sites in the national register, but the LGBT aspect is rarely mentioned).

I'd like to see Cambridge City Hall (site of the first same-sex weddings) included.

What does this have to do with the National Park Service?? What it really is ,is another 'group" trying to push an agenda. More politically correct BS.

Sorry but I don't equate someones sexual preference to culture

Which is like saying African Americans prefer to be black, and they have been victims of discrimination based on that preference.

Well, look, if the NPS wants to designate the Stonewall Tavern in New York City a National Historical Site, that's fine with me. It's in keeping with the concept that it's running a series of museums, from the outdoor variety (e.g., Zion) to the historical kind (there's probably one for John Brown or Nat Turner, for example, and certainly there's Independence Hall).

But this is all such a side-show. Outside magazine makes the case that some of us have been making on this page for years: that the NPS might as well be called the National Museum Service and that it is blowing it big-time on recreation, with Sally Jewell the latest offender (focusing on, e.g., trying to attract inner-city kids who inevitably will find outdoor recreation about as exciting as a visit to a vaccination clinic, while continuing to ignore people who want to recreate in the parks, because there's the risk they might have fun and God knows we can't have that in our outdoor places of moral uplift):

I would hope NPT would provide a link to the article on its home page and get everyone here to read it.

Quoting from the article above:

"[Former Yosemite Superintendent] Finley explains . . . 'You can’t roller-skate in the Sistine Chapel, nor should you.' Which is to say that adventure sports are banned in parks for cultural reasons."

So, if we're running a museum curatorship and religious-worship service that happens to utilize outdoor locations, I see no reason why the history of gays and lesbians should be excluded.

Wow. If this then that, to absudum.

Museum curation is one of several different disciplines within the NPS. It is far from the best funded, as much of it is behind the scenes and not as sexy as Old Faithful or Half Dome or the grizzlies in Denali.

If we are preserving and communicating the history of America then there is no reason to exclude the history of sexual minorities. It won't take one single bit of bikeable trail away from you. There is every probability that a goodly proportion of your bike riding buddies are within the GLBTQRSVP community anyhow.

Rick, you are scoring an own goal. I am saying, just as you are, that as long as there's a museum aspect to the NPS, "I see no reason why the history of gays and lesbians should be excluded." I have to quote myself because you can't possibly have read my post. And yes, I do have one FB friend who's a gay man and is a mountain biker. What I am also saying is that this issue brings into relief the larger problem that that's pretty what the NPS is: a museum service, combined with a religious movement. I believe that is not good. There I am sure we will disagree, if not on the facts, at least on the consequences of them.

Fine, fine. I just don't know how you leap from my "there is a museum aspect to the NPS" to your "NPS is a museum service". [emphasis added] I'm totally leaving alone your religious allusions.

Fair enough! I think our difference of opinion is that I think the NPS would like to treat all of its properties as museums and that's why it's huffy (no pun intended) about mountain bikers, kayakers, climbers, etc. Its preferred forms of recreation are contemplative and, one senses, ideally should be reverential . . . exhilaration has no place in its catalogue raisonné of permissible uses.

The article—which I encourage everyone to read—points out that the NPS has been thwarted in this desire, but not in a way that's good:

[I]n 1957, Congress approved Mission 66, an unprecedented ten-year, $700 million series of construction projects intended to improve infrastructure by building thousands of miles of roads, visitor centers, campgrounds, bathrooms, gift shops, and maintenance bays. The parks as we now know them are a reflection of this single act. In his 2007 book, Mission 66, Ethan Carr, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, writes that the act “came to symbolize … a willingness to sacrifice the integrity of park ecosystems for the sake of enhancing the merely superficial scenery by crowds of people in automobiles.”

The gravamen (crux) of the article is this well-argued paragraph, which sums up a number of issues some of us have been raising in these discussions for a long time:

What all this has left us with is phenomenal natural areas that are for the most part managed like drive-through museums. Meanwhile, a growing number of outdoor athletes, who should be among the most committed park stewards, have been ostracized. The nonprofit Outdoor Alliance, a Washington, D.C., umbrella group for human-powered-advocacy organizations like American Whitewater, climbing’s Access Fund, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), has 100,000 members and skews toward a Gen Y demographic. By comparison, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the historical champion of the national parks, has 500,000 members with a median age in the sixties.

And I can certainly see how Grayson Schaeffer's opinion speaks to you. He is championing your favorite thingie.

By way of full disclosure, by the way, my wife is a museum curator working full time for the NPS. Since I'm retired and have nothing better to do than battle back at windmills, I kinda stick up for her career field when museums are bad mouthed.

Back to the topic of the thread, I've never seen an organization as diverse as the NPS, and I have no doubts that this mission to include sexual minorities in amongst the rest of the civil rights history the NPS preserves will be accomplished well.

12 billion dollar maintence backlog and this is thier new priority. This effort is fine with me as long as not one cent of NPS budget is spent on this. Maybe REI can fund it, Sally.

imtnbke, glad to see you return to the Traveler to weigh in, though, as Rick pointed out, it seems only because mountain bikes are part of the discussion. The parks are about so much more than one recreational pursuit, and your thoughts on other aspects in play would be welcome.

But beyond that, perhaps you could explain the point the Outside author was trying to make by noting that the Outdoor Alliance counts 100,000 members who skew towards a Gen Y/Millennial demographic, while NPCA's 500,000 members have a median age in their sixties?

Is he stereotyping older folks as sedentary folks? Surely that can't be the case, can it? I know and encounter plenty of folks in their sixties and older out enjoying the parks in active recreational pursuits. Indeed, one friend in her 70s rows her own raft down the Yampa and Green rivers through Class III and IV rapids, and another still climbs mountains. There are other examples, but the point is that entering one's seventh decade doesn't equate with avoiding the outdoors.

While I haven't quite reached that demographic, when I do, will I immediately be cast onto the couch, sell my canoe, tents, backpack, hiking boots, and road bike and head to parks only to tour museums (which isn't a bad thing, though the Park Service does need to invest more in them)?

Beyond that, his claim of Millennials being "ostracized" is way off the mark, and we'll address that in the days to come.

Sad to see this website turn into a forum for trolls to lash out at minorities they dislike.

Hi, Kurt — Thanks. I'm even more guilty than you're stating, because I found a topic utterly unrelated to mountain biking and managed to drag it into the discussion thread. I wanted to find a way to introduce the Outside article to the regulars on these boards.

I don't think he's stereotyping older folks as sedentary. But there is always the risk of treating older people with disdain in our youth-oriented society, so one should tread carefully in pointing out demographics. Giving the author the benefit of any doubt, I think he was saying the NPS would be wise to engage with people who will be around to support its budget in 30 years, which the NPCA people may not be, unless NPCA alters its focus. By the way, in this fabulous TEDx talk, Brady Robinson has made the same point: all of the traditional conservation and environmental organizations are in the same demographic bind, with few members under 50 and an average age well into the 60s (interestingly, about the same demographic as Rush Limbaugh, whose average listener is reported to be a 69-year-old rural male).

Also, I agree with you that "ostracized" is too strong a characterization of the NPS's attitude toward recreation. The NPS's recent pro-recreation initiatives, however cautious and timid they may be, have caused some consternation in NPT discussions. Leaving aside a couple baby steps in favor of mountain biking, the NPS decided, amazingly, that the Wilderness Act allows for leaving fixed climbing anchors in place. A strict reading of the Wilderness Act would disallow them, so the fact that the NPS went the other way is nothing short of miraculous. So yes, "ostracized" is off the mark.

Again speaking of mountain biking, the NPS seems more progressive these days than does the Forest Service, which continues to insist that mountain biking is illegal on the Pacific Crest Trail, based on a typewritten order from three FS employees in 1988 that they issued, with no notice and comment proceedings, after the FS headquarters in Washington refused a request from the PCT Association's predecessor to ban bicycles. The closure order is plainly illegal, but the FS won't back away from it.

Nevertheless, I hope your article won't focus on the use of the word "ostracized," because overall, the Outside article states its case compellingly, and it won't look particularly persuasive to focus on that one overstatement.

Rick refers to my interests as a "thingie," and you wish I would write about more than mountain biking. To me, though, the controversies surrounding that one minor sport illustrate so many of the larger questions that surround conservation and even American culture generally (the ingrained Puritan tradition that continues to inform American thought versus a relaxed approach to life, for example). I try in these posts to get beyond wheels-on-trails to comment on the larger issues.

Well, I'll stay away from the access debate for once. It seems that this mission is a bit of a stretch from the original NPS mission. Living in the SF bay area, I got plenty of gay friends, but it seems like the NPS has more pressing needs right now.

And I'm actually going to visit a National Park next week, for the first time in years!!

We'll expect a full report, Zeb. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly. And don't forget a photo or three...

Since we're going to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, it ought to be pretty nice!

I'll weigh on on recent or impending visits. Last week I visited Effigy Mounds National Monument, in eastern Iowa.

The good: the NPS's usual high maintenance standards showed. The trails that wend their way among the mounds are in impeccable shape. Same with the visitor center. The mounds are remarkable, if not physically, then for what they represent: the presence of a civilization I don't know how many thousands of years old.

The bad: we watched a 14-minute introductory film that was excruciatingly politically correct. In essence, the noble natives lived in harmony with the environment and were a model of good comportment, but the Europeans showed up and wrecked everything. If the Indians, for example, engaged in cruel, take-no-prisoners warfare with neighboring tribes, or the men brutalized their wives or stole women from neighboring tribes, there was no mention of anything of the kind. (For a compelling portrayal of the cruelty of the Iroquois in 1634, although I can't vouch for its accuracy, I recommend the excellent, but gruesome, 1991 Bruce Beresford movie Black Robe (

And this gets back to this discussion thread. People who are expressing skepticism about the NPS's LGBT approach are being accused of homophobia. I'm not so sure I see homophobia in their comments. They could be basically gay-positive but skeptical that the NPS will present an unvarnished look at the history of gay and lesbian people in this country. For example, I have met people who knew Harvey Milk personally (I also live in the Bay Area) and have read about him. He was, of course, a pioneer for gay civil rights and a courageous figure. He was also, according to some, an abrasive and somewhat arrogant man who wasn't particularly likable. Would the NPS present him as a complete human being, or rather as a saint? Isn't this an issue with the NPS's treatment of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also?

And, finally, the ugly: the park ranger at the visitor center cash register was armed. Although I recognize that rural eastern Iowa is a hotbed of criminal activity :-), I continue to object to the arming of so many park rangers. I sometimes feel I'm at a U.S. border crossing rather than an NPS visitor center or other bucolic site.

Now, back to my idée fixe: I saw that there were miles of trails and asked if I could mountain bike them to see as much as possible. The armed ranger said no, that would be "inappropriate" (the perfect buzzword for our therapeutic age) because the Indian mounds were "sacred" places of burial—a comment of a piece with the Yosemite superintendent's comparison of the parks to the Sistine Chapel. I ventured that probably no one at the NPS had asked the current Indian people's opinions of this and that they might be fine with it. Then I asked, "So it's not OK to ride a bike, but it would be OK to stand next to the mounds and talk on a cell phone?" The ranger conceded that I had a point.

P.S. Here's The New York Times's review of Black Robe. People on this thread who have an interest in the intersection of North America's wildlands and the history of the peoples who have inhabited them would probably enjoy this movie, which I thought was superb:

Rick B, yep, that ignore button works about like Hillary/Obama's "Reset" Button. Both working about the same (big picture:).


re: "And, finally, the ugly: the park ranger at the visitor center cash register was armed." This is a major digression from the original topic of this story, but one deserving comment.

It's a bit ironic that a number of posts on the Traveler in recent years have complained about the specialization of disciplines in the NPS (i.e. "protection rangers only want to do law enforcement, and never have any positive visitor contacts"), so perhaps it should be a good sign that in this case, the ranger involved was actually working behind the visitor counter and help man the cash register.

Back in the 1970s there was a time when commissioned rangers were required to remove their weapons anytime they entered a visitor center or were engaged in any "non-enforcement" duties. It created a potential problem in safeguarding unattended weapons, and, like the comment above, presumed that the thankfully rare criminal activity in parks always occurred only after the bad guys made an advance announcement of their intentions, thus allowing plenty of time for pubic safety personnel to dig their guns out of desk drawers or the trunk of their vehicles, out in the parking lot.

I, too, yearn for days of a calmer, more peaceful world, when "arming" of park rangers was rarely needed. Alas, the days of Mayberry are long gone. I don't have current figures of the percentage of NPS uniformed rangers who are commissioned officers, but a quick Google search suggests perhaps 25%.

At what point in American history did it become American to insist on branding? Are now all Americans to be identified by what’s between their legs and not their ears? Do what you will behind the wall of your tent—or bedroom. I don’t care. But how is it necessary to parade it? We might as well be running around like cows and bulls. See there! The LGBT brand of the old Bar X!

Civil Rights is not an industry, but millions of Americans have made it so. They have nothing else to offer their country but constantly waving the bloody shirt. Look what your ancestors did to my ancestors. Now you must prove you love me by doing what? By allowing me to wear my brand in public while condemning your brand as unfit.

Read the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916. I see no branding of Americans there. I rather see greatness and a true love of country. I rather see an institution of which all Americans can be proud.

You want to brand that by insisting that your superiority derives from your sex life and not your public life? Go ahead, but remember this. No culture has ever survived that process, starting with the good people of Greece and Rome.

Al Runte

Brand: Heterosexual white male, age 67, but had a gay brother-in-law, now deceased. Does that count, Secretary Jewell? Then how about this. A mother who taught me to find the good in everyone and never to check their brand.

Hi, Jim — Thanks for commenting on my observation about the armed ranger. I appreciate your perspective, but have a different one.

Preliminarily, some months ago I did a Google check too on the percentage of armed rangers and came up with about the same percentage as you.

I find the presence of all of these armed personnel oppressive and unpleasant. You see them everywhere, on remote trails, etc. These are parks, not prisons. I've posted on here before that they have almost zero crime . . . I believe I found NPS statistics that showed this.

So why all the guns? I bet it's because the armed rangers get higher pay, and of course we all want a bigger paycheck. As with so many topics on this site, it probably comes down to bureaucratic motivations.

When armed violence occurs in a national park (as at Rainier a couple of years ago), call in the county sheriff and the state police to deal with it. Every park resides within a county and a state, territory, or the District of Columbia. Law enforcement is the traditional business of states and counties. Park rangers have more uplifting roles to play. The concept of an armed ranger seems almost like an oxymoron; at a minimum, it's distasteful and off-putting, at least to me.

Alfred, this is a generational thing. Except for fundamentalist Christians, hardly anyone under 45 agrees with you, even conservative Republicans. Obviously, sexual orientation is deeply rooted in our psyche and is far weightier than what one does with one's body parts. It's at least as fundamental as religion, and we're obsessed with promoting, discussing, denigrating, and generally arguing about religions. There's endless discussion about this, from literary works and popular entertainment (TV shows) to all sorts of historical, psychological, psychiatric, and neurological writing.

You're right that there is a civil-rights industry, which can be obnoxious, but that doesn't mean that civil rights are meaningless, trivial, or frivolous.

As for Greece and Rome, I don't know about Greece, but Rome fell because of some combination of excessive taxation, indifference among the elites to defending the empire (IIRC the army came to be composed of hired mercenaries and not the citizenry), imperial overreach (every empire has eventually bankrupted itself, the U.S. being well on its way to being the latest), lead in the plumbing that debilitated people, corrupt leadership, or simple fatigue. Sexual orientation had nothing to do with it, as far as I've ever heard. In fact, I don't recall homosexuality being much of an issue in Rome. It was an aspect of Greek life, but not in the way we think of the terms "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality," which, IIRC, date from 19th century psychological concepts and weren't thought of in those linguistic terms in Greece, Rome, or even Renaissance Europe.

"Obviously, sexual orientation is deeply rooted in our psyche and is far weightier than what one does with one's body parts. It's at least as fundamental as religion"

And if the park service decided to spend money on the contributions of xyz religion to America I would be just as opposed. My view is unpoplular these days as I am all for examining peoples contributions to whatever the issue may be regardless of their race, gendoer or sexual preference. It baffles me that having this viewpoint makes me the biggot in so many eyes. Then again I am over 45.

Hi, Wild Places — I agree that the NPS shouldn't be involved with religion or sexual orientation per se, and I wouldn't accuse you of being a bigot. In fact I don't much like identity politics myself; they're quite often boring and can be unnecessarily divisive.

I think what the NPS is proposing to do, however, is identify places of historical interest. There is a history of the gay rights movement, just as there's a history of the black civil rights movement, of Asian civil rights issues (the Japanese internment at Manzanar and elsewhere, Chinese railroad labor), and of religious movements (Puritans in New England, the Mormons at, e.g., Whitingham, Vt., and Nauvoo, Ill., the Amish, the Mennonites, etc.).

As long as the NPS has within its purview the preservation of artifacts and locations that reflect American history, I favor including gay and lesbian historical sites in that effort.


re: "I bet it's because the armed rangers get higher pay..." Unless something has changed in the past dozen years or so, that's incorrect. A GS-9 protection ranger gets the same pay as a GS-9 interpreter. Protection staff may work a few more shifts on nights, Sundays or holidays, but that differential pay is the same as for any other federal employee.

As to let the " county sheriff and the state police" handle law enforcement, most parks cultivate and enjoy good cooperative relationships with state and local agencies, but the reality is response times to parks can be very long for officers from outside agencies, and their resources are already stretched way too thin for them to be willing or able to take on the extra workload, especially in heavily visited parks.

In the tragic death of the ranger at Mt. Rainier that you mention, most of the analysis indicates if the ranger had not confronted the armed individual on his way into the park, there could have been many more deaths among the nearly 100 visitors - and unarmed employees - trapped by a dead-end road inside the park. After his involvement in earlier shootings, there's no reason to believe this criminal was just coming to play in the snow. This story, from a non-park source, gives a chilling look at that incident:

I'm sorry you find having armed protection staff in the parks "distasteful and off-putting," but I'm a lot more comfortable during a park visit knowing that in case of a problem, help is a lot closer at hand than a distant county sheriff or state policeman.

Thanks for correcting me on the pay issue. Indeed, I think I may have made this point before and been corrected before! It may be time to attach jumper cables to my ears and see if I can fire up some of those dormant neurons. :-)

I did look at the Outside article, thank you, and it left me with the impression that if the hothead soon-to-be-murderer had been shrugged off when he failed to stop at a chain control, nothing would have happened; he probably would have kept going through the park and found some other place at which to unleash his pent-up rage. Instead, it was Code 3: lights, then siren, then a roadblock with those big Chevy Tahoes, as though he'd run a border crossing. I think of the old saying that to a hammer, everything is a nail. I know this is an emotional issue, so I'll stop there.

I'd be curious to know if the parks' strikingly visible law-enforcement aspect has kept marijuana growers out of them. If so, I'd be swayed to rethink my views. If not, then I'd wonder what all of those people driving around in those large NPS SUVs all day are doing, as I couldn't help but notice at Great Basin National Park a couple of years ago.

You want to brand that by insisting that your superiority derives from your sex life and not your public life?

Who is the "you" here? (And what is the antecedent to "that"?) Alfred, I'm not sure I follow your point: are you suggesting that the LGBT is invoking some victimary narrative that doesn't truly reflect a history of civic/cultural discrimination but somehow nevertheless gestures toward some kind of superiority (over heterosexuals?)? And perhaps more to the point of the thread, is your issue that cultural preservation shouldn't be part of the NPS mission, or that it should be, but the LGBT struggle against discrimination somehow doesn't count as an important part of the historical texture of American culture? I think I'm in full agreement with imtnbke's comments above.

Sorry, Mr. Runte. As a former Seattle-area registered voter I've carefully researched your writings before. Some I agree with, some I disagree with. Your take on this issue I disagree with 100%, and agree with Justin's comments above.

As a historian, if I spent all my time describing the traits of an individual ahead of that individual's accomplishments, I would never have time for the accomplishments. If you read my writings, Rick B., you will note that I never refer to Republicans and Democrats any more than I refer to gays and lesbians. In the growth of great ideas, who cares? So yes, the insistence that American history needs a narrative other than accomplishment is to adopt an air of superiority totally at odds with civil rights, which was itself an accomplishment, but not for the reasons being bandied now. Here is the accomplishment: Martin Luther King asked for a color-blind society based on the content of one's character. You will pardon me for extrapolating color-blind into every other human trait. The more we ask our fellow citizens to identify one another based on anything but character, the more we perpetuate what we claim we wish to eradicate, or would you disagree 100% with Dr. King, as well?

Sheesh. I also don't hate motherhood, apple pie, or kittens, in case you also want to wrap yourself in those as well.

You do your job as a historian as you see fit. Others will do it as they see fit. It appears that you agree with Chief Justice John Roberts that since racism is now dead, we no longer have to deal with it in the courts.

Have a nice day.

I am sorry if my quoting a great American troubles you, Rick, but yes, that is why he is great. He is quotable; he is memorable; his words inspire and cut to the chase. Dr. King did not campaign to "advance" civil rights; he rather campaigned to make the Civil Rights Movement unnecessary. The more we distrust one another to want that goal without a pummeling from our government "leaders," the more we perpetuate the civil rights industry, which has nothing to do with achieving the goal. Now you know why we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, warts and all. As for kittens, apple pie, baseball, and Chevrolet, I'll take kittens hands down, but yes, I do love apple pie and drive a Chevrolet, and occasionally watch the Mariners--lose.

"At what point in American history did it become American to insist on branding? Are now all Americans to be identified by what’s between their legs and not their ears?"

Considering the country started out with the Constitution and various other state and federal laws banning certain rights for women based on what was between their legs, the answer is: from the inception of American history it was American to insist on branding and Americans were identified by what's between their legs.

The only difference is that now people other than straight white males are asking for their contributions to American history to be recognized and celebrated as much as straight white male contributions to American history have been over the past 200 plus years.

ethelred, interesting comment. I have been out of touch so I am not "up" on the thread of this discussion . But I think you have a point, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband in 1776 knowing the men drafting the "Declaration of Independence" and other documents leading to a new republic would explicitly define and extol the rights of men, not women. She asked that John be sure to "remember the ladies". Mr Adams responded, "Depend upon it", the future president wrote back to his wife, "that we know better than to repeal our Masculine systems". As contentious as it maybe, the historical and cultural aspects of the nations history are part of the charge of NPS mission, they need to be presented.