Discussion Guide: 400 Years – Discussing Slavery, Freedom, & Race in America

Select text pages from the 400 Years guideThis discussion guide was created in 2019 by interpreters, for interpreters.

It was designed to provide information about how to approach dialogue surrounding the history of slavery, freedom, and race in America. This guide was created to help interpreters generate ideas and options for how to have deep conversations around race with your park’s visitors. The example dialogic questions in this guide will help you craft your own experiences. In short, this document is simple framework. It is up to you to tie the discussion to the place you interpret.

While this guide contains examples of historical stories at certain parks related to slavery, freedom, and race in America, many of these dialogic approaches can be applied in different settings. Many stories like these are out there waiting to be told, including at your own park.

Every site in the National Park Service has a part of this story buried within its landscape. There are many local resources that can help you find stories of race in your place. Community members and cultural resource experts work in your parks or live just beyond their boundaries. Reaching out to these knowledgeable people can help you find the story of your place.

This guide includes an extensive annotated bibliography. Many of the sources listed will help you as you begin searching for your site’s story, and deepen your knowledge of how race and slavery echo within your place, as well as your park’s role in the greater American narrative.

Lastly, this guide is a work of encouragement: tell these stories and have these discussions

Download a copy of “400 Years: Discussing Slavery, Freedom, & Race in America”

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  1. Please consider this guide as a tool to help you navigate the conversations ahead. The resources at the back of the guide could be a great reading and discussion group. Join me in reading them all. Also, consider this excerpt from page 8: The societal wounds that we do not talk about fester the most, yet the malevolent impact of racialized American slavery and the consequent social reverberations are still present. This reality can make the issue of slavery daunting to discuss. That said, discussion is the necessary tool to help America move beyond the harm. Other nations and organizations have found just how productive the open investigation of discrimination can be to move towards healing. By looking at the actions from our own lives that help contribute to problems in society, we can all begin to heal and grow. Thank you to the team that made this guide possible.


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