Association for the Education and Preservation of African-American History The Washington, D.C. National Black History Recreational Trail

Twenty years ago, a young Boy Scout had an idea that would make a difference in learning about African-American history in Washington, D.C.

Back in 1978, Willard Andre Hutt proposed building a hiking trail--one that would function as an educational and recreational tool for all U.S. citizens-- as an Eagle Scout project to honor black history.

On February 13, 1987, Secretary of the Interior Donald P. Hodel signed the Washington, D.C. Black History National Recreational Trail into existence. Shortly thereafter, the National Park Service dedicated the Trail as part of the National Trails System. It is the only African-American national recreation trail recognized by the federal government.

“My parents taught me to finish whatever I started, to never stop trying, to never say ‘I can’t’ unless I’ve tried and failed,” he said.

The 7.5 mile trail was researched by Hutt and is a seven-stop tour of Washington's most famous black history sites. The Washington Post wrote that while you are hiking the trail, "you are constantly reminded of Washington, D.C.'s important role in promoting equal opportunity and preserving black culture." The trail winds through every section of the city and every major neighborhood in they city.

The trail includes the following African-American sites:

Mount Zion Cemetery
Washington D.C.'s oldest black cemetery. Several local black leaders are buried here.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
An exhibit here documents the black educator's life and showcases black female organizations.
Metropolitan A.M.E. Church
Founded in 1822 by dissatisfied blacks who split off from a white congregation, this church was D.C.'s most prominent postwar black church.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
The house of the "Father of the Civil Rights Movement" includes a visitor center with exhibits and a documentary film on Douglass' life.
Lincoln Park
Ex-slave Charlotte Scott vowed to use the first money she earned as a freed woman to help fund a statue of Lincoln. The park's "Emancipation" statue serves as Scott's tribute to the former President. A statue of black educator Mary McLeod Bethune was added to the park in 1974.
LeDroit Park and Howard University
Howard University, named after white military leader Otis Howard, the first man to voluntarily use black soldiers during the Civil War, was founded as a school for freedmen. LeDroit Park was considered the premier Washington, D.C. address for middle and upper-class blacks in the 1920s.

But the trail needs your help!

While the Washington, D.C. National Black History Trail is a big success with the public and has raised awareness of black history in the D.C. area, a large void in services from the National Park Service and the District of Columbia was created due to government budget cuts. The Association for the Education and Preservation of African-American History will fill the void.

AEPAH has been cooperating with the NPS and the DC government to make the trail an even greater success and to ensure its longevity for future generations to enjoy. If you would like to help raise funds for the trail, please volunteer in our annual March for Parks and National Trail Day events.

If you would like more information about the Washington, D.C. National Black History Recreational Trail or would like a copy of the NPS brochure on the trail, please contact the Association.


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