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Letter: Hoping NPS Doesn’t Forget African American Story In Ste. Genevieve

To the Editor:

Reading the Herald this week [August 14 edition], I noticed “the reduced role” of Tim Good, interim superintendent for the new national park in Ste. Genevieve. Tim has always recognized the historical importance of the many African American families who lived in Ste. Genevieve. With his decreased involvement, I’m concerned the dynamic stories of these families, those who built many of the houses we celebrate, will fade and the visitor base will remain limited.

The popularity of the African American Museum in Washington, D.C., and the award-winning interpretation of enslavement at James Madison’s Montpelier seem to confirm the growing interest in personal stories of those who made their way through struggle.

I reflect upon my own grandmother, who attended the Ste. Genevieve Colored Public School on Washington Street. After moving to Oregon as a child, she was seen as white and held her true ethnicity secret for the rest of her life. Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”.

It’s critical that the National Park Service recognizes that the African American stories we have in Ste. Genevieve provide a rare view into a more complete American past, where students not only visit quarters of enslaved people, but can also experience the houses where families of mixed ethnicity raised their children.

The new superintendent will hopefully cast a wide net when seeking important narratives from all backgrounds, and draw in a magnificent catch.

Don Strand,

Amoureux family descendant

San Francisco, California

[Editor’s Note: Strand, working with Felix Valle House State Historic Site superintendent Donna Rausch of Missouri State Parks and others, developed the website and educational app.

Patricia Trap, who was acting regional director based in Omaha, Nebraska, for the National Park Service (NPS) during the time of her visit to Ste. Genevieve with acting NPS deputy director David Vela on August 9, was asked about diversity in the hiring process among candidates to be the next superintendent of the park. She said, “I can promise only that certainly the diversity of all stories will be told, and I’ll be sure that somebody (hired as superintendent) respects that diversity of the stories that were here.”]

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