ACE Recognizes and Amplifies Black History Well Beyond Black History Month

by | ACE Main Blog, Project Spotlight

Black History month is a time to reflect on the rich cultural heritage of African Americans and the many contributions they have made throughout US history. For American Conservation Experience, the work in preserving and celebrating Black history is a year-round focus.

While conservation corps dedicate much of their resources to habitat protection and restoration, fuels reduction, and trail building, many are not familiar with the work dedicated to historic conservation. ACE volunteers participate in projects that restore and preserve cultural sites and artifacts, provide inclusive and accurate interpretation to visitors at museums and national parks, and more. 

Our members assist with a variety of projects that help tell the often untold stories of Black Americans. ACE members are deployed to sites and locations across the country to research and organize archives, preserve and treat materials for display exhibits, serve as educational interpreters at park visitor centers, and more.

As one example, last year ACE cultural resource interns Lucy Oster and Gabrielle McFarland surveyed, treated and inventoried Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-CM Boxley’s life’s work and research, which included 28 years of material, providing it to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and ensuring its preservation.

This work was done in partnership with the Natchez National Historical Park and Boxley himself. Boxley, according to the Natchez Democrat, was elated to have his work preserved in this way. “No one knows what it means to me to have something happen to my stuff, that it’s not going to be thrown away,” he said.

Gabrielle McFarland, Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-CM Boxley

Gabrielle McFarland, Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-CM Boxley, and Laura Anne Heller, archivist for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Boxley’s work included 20 bins of research papers detailing the history of the Forks in the Road, the second largest slave market in the American deep south, and the US Colored Troops, regiments of the United States army with primarily African American soldiers in the 1800’s. 

“My time working with American Conservation Experience, Natchez National Historical Park, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History completely transformed my understanding of public history and approaches in archival science,” said ACE member Gabrielle Mcfarland, according to the Natchez Democrat. “Preserving Ser Boxley’s legacy and the stories he carries with him honors a tradition of Black American, community-based memory work that has been historically undervalued by repositories. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this redress.”

Natchez National Historical Park

Natchez National Historical Park

With the collection now maintained by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, researchers and scholars can access the work, museums within Mississippi can display it and use the content to update interpretation, and other museums, such as the National African American History Heritage and Culture Museum, can borrow items for their own exhibits. 

“ACE is proud of our year-round service in ensuring continued connections to our past and giving voice to diverse perspectives,” said ACE CEO and President Laura Herrin. “In working with our partners, we are amplifying the stories that promote representation and inclusivity and are oftentimes left out of historical narratives.”

Since its founding in 2004, ACE has deployed more than 8,000 participants to over 2,280 project sites across all 50 states and several territories. This work continues with the help of our members and partners. 


Interested in learning more about American Conservation Experience, including our programs – Conservation Crew and Emerging Professionals in Conservation? If so, click here to check out our resources and media and to apply online.

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