Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 120 / Number 1
Masquerading Indians and Unsightly Blacks: Racial Policy, the American Past, and National Identity at Colonial National Monument
- Jeffrey Kosiorek, pp. 32–61
In 1931, at the sesquicentennial celebration of the victory at Yorktown, the National Park Service (NPS) dedicated Colonial National Monument (CNM). As one of the first explicitly historical units within the park system, CNM contributed to the expansion of the mission, scope, and influence of the NPS under Horace Albright, the second director of the young agency. Though part of the federal state-building of the era, CNM demonstrates the ways that a variety of local, state, and federal organizations along with a host of individuals helped negotiate national identity and racial policy during the period. These diverse interests attempted to erase the African American and Native American presence from the historical memory presented at CNM, embedding a white racial identity for the nation in the design of the park, its interpretive materials, and the sesquicentennial celebration. They further ignored the contributions of these peoples, arguing that the nation represented a triumphant perfection of European ideals and racial stock. But not everyone accepted this interpretation of national identity and historical memory, as black evangelist Elder Solomon Lightfoot Michaux's plan for a National Memorial to the Progress of the Colored Race in America neighboring CNM suggests.