Critical Issues Interpretive Example — Civil Rights and Slavery

The “Peculiar Institution” Returns to the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Sometimes interpreters are not the ones sharing stories. Sometimes it is far more powerful to help others share their tales. In 2011, interpreters at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial partnered with local community members to help bring slavery back to life as an event of remembrance and learning. On the steps of the Old Courthouse, where slave auctions occurred 150 years before, local African-American actors cried out in agony as they recreated families torn apart and lives shattered. The event wasn’t simply a play. Afterwards, the audience and actors alike gathered in the courthouse and discussed why the story mattered. Park interpreters facilitated this dialogue, opening discussion on not just the past but the issues we still face today.

What You’ll Find

Two short video clips capture parts of the reenactment special event:

Reenactment Video Part 1 — 5 minutes

Reenactment Video Part 2 — 5 minutes

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  1. What a powerful program. People frequently show up to reenactments of battles, but they forget WHY those battles happened. It is important for us to remember, so that we never have to repeat these lessons.


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