Legacies of Enslavement & Race: Non-negotiables


As the Legacies Workgroup’s steering committee laid the groundwork for this assessment tool, they kept returning to a series of foundational principles that would create a framework for understanding the rubric’s content. The Four Truths, non-negotiables, and detailers all play a role in grounding the intentions of the assessment tool.

Non-negotiables are the forensic/factual truths, based on scientific research or historical documentation, about which National Park Service staff and volunteers will not argue.


Non-negotiables (forensic truths) are our trademark in the National Park Service. People who come to national parks expect our presentations or interactions to be based in sound scholarship, as this is a tenet of interpretation. Each park is encouraged to come up with their own set of non-negotiables specific to their park’s themes.

NCAO and park leadership/staff will stand by these statements because we will have gathered specific information and conducted research based on the best available sound science and scholarship about the history of slavery and its legacy at our site.

Park staff will receive training on how and when to engage with visitors about non-negotiables, and when to maintain distance and not to engage for safety purposes. Non-negotiables should be diplomatically expressed in interpretation, addressing the fact that these forensic truths are not up for debate. Our programs and exhibitions are based on peer-reviewed science and in historical source materials. Though we can listen to another point of view, we can objectify our responses with language like, “Scientist say…” or “Original source documents have led historians to come to the conclusion that ….”


Forensic Historical Non-negotiables:

Slavery was the cause of the Civil War.

The myth of the “good slave owner” is part of the “Lost Cause” propaganda created by white supremacists.

African American history is integral to American history, not a sub-set of American history—it IS American History.

The following link is a word document with a suggested list of non-negotiables for parks in the NCA. As part of the assessment process, parks should engage in developing their own set of non-negotiables that compliment these and round out the themes addressed by their park.

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