news battlefields foundation to create trail to tell stories of african americans during civil war era
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Battlefields Foundation to create trail to tell stories of African-Americans during Civil War era

Long Road to FreedomThe Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has been awarded a $74,000 grant from the National Park Service to support the foundation’s “Long Road to Freedom” project.

The project will create a Shenandoah Valley trail and initiative to tell the story of African-Americans in the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War era and during the long journey from Civil War to civil rights.

The trail which will link together historic sites and stories throughout the Valley with wayside interpretive markers, state historical markers, orientation panels, promotional materials, a trail-wide visitor guide, a website and digital and technological tools.

“We are honored and grateful to receive this award,” said Keven Walker, CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. “And we are excited at the opportunity to bring this history to the forefront.”

The funding will be matched in part by recently appropriated state funds, as well as by privately-raised funds, meaning that at least $150,000 will go toward the project, according to a news release.

In addition to traditional interpretive tools, the project will utilize technology through smart phones, QR codes and web-based tools to enhance the on-site experience and provide additional information, background and context for visitors at program sites.

“Harnessing the history of our nation’s sites of armed conflict through dynamic interpretation can lead to greater understanding of our shared past,” said Chuck Sams, NPS director. “The National Park Service is proud to support public partnerships which support inclusive community engagement that honors and preserves the past to realize our shared ideals.”

The project is part of the Foundation’s “One Story … A Thousand Voices” approach to telling the full story of the Valley’s history.

The “Long Road to Freedom” project’s goals include dramatically increasing awareness of and appreciation for the history of African-Americans in the Shenandoah Valley and increasing visitation to the sites where historic events happened.

The foundation first started development of the “Long Road to Freedom” project in 2018 and began working to secure the needed funding in the following years. As part of the project development, the Foundation hosted a conference at James Madison University in November 2019, “The Long Road to Freedom: The Centuries Long Journey from Slavery Through Civil War to Civil Rights.”

“With this project, we can help bring that history the greater recognition it deserves,” said Walker.

For more information, visit www.ShenandoahAtWar.org

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.