Master of Arts (M.A.)
“In the Bosom of the Storied Blue Ridge Mountains:” Contesting the Future of American Culture in Shenandoah National Park, 1924-1936 In the early 20th century, as the National Park Service gained traction, legislators in the east pushed to preserve large tracts of land in the “western” mind. Yet the forces that converged in the early twentieth century to produce the National Park movement and to envision what those parks should be were more complicated than Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson’s presidencies imply. Theoretically parks for “the people,” National Park locations, resources, and regulations were often governed by the social and economic elite. In the case of eastern parks like Shenandoah, the government acquired land through land condemnation acts, often at the expense of rural and lower income communities. Efforts at Shenandoah, while drastic, illustrate how the creation of National Parks sought not only to preserve land, but also to craft and constitute a particular vision of American culture. Justified as places where the American public could go to enjoy health and continued prosperity, these places simultaneously offered lessons in what it should and should not mean to be an American. In their rejection of mountain culture in Shenandoah, the federal government defined America’s past, present, and future as a place of supposed national growth, consumer culture, and economic advancement. “The Yorktown Problem”: Constructing a Cultural Landscape, 1900-1935 The history of the Uniontown community and Yorktown National Battlefield demonstrates that sites of memory are always contested, and that meaning is not only inscribed through formal means, such as interpretive signs or government-sponsored events, but is also appropriated and generated through cultural uses of sites of memory. Moreover, the founding of Yorktown National Battlefield reveals that the reconciliationist narrative of erasure applied to Civil War memory does not always hold. Park administrators made decisions for pragmatic, though not unproblematic, reasons, guided by their understanding of what makes history and what is significant in history. Taken collectively, the story of Yorktown and Uniontown demonstrates that the history and goals of national spaces must continually be interrogated and revised to ask what has been expunged, and what needs to be uncovered again to generate a more inclusive understanding of the past.
© The Author
Capobianco, Rebecca, "Contesting Identity and Citizenship in National Parks, 1900-1935" (2017). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. Paper 1516639573.
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