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April 2, 2009

Cynthia Lowery Morris
National Park Foundation


Fifth Annual Gala Event Celebrates the Legacy of African Americans in America's National Parks

Special Tribute to Dr. Franklin from Acclaimed Documentarian Ken Burns

Washington, DC ( - The African American Experience Fund of The National Park Foundation (NPF), the Congressionally chartered non-profit partner of America's National Parks will honor the life and legacy of historian and author Dr. John Hope Franklin at its fifth annual fundraising gala, "Celebrating a Tradition of Excellence." Award winning journalist Gwen Ifill will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies and documentarian Ken Burns, director of the upcoming film, National Parks: America's Best Idea, made possible with support from the National Park Foundation will deliver a special tribute to Dr. Franklin, highlighting the important role of African-Americans in the rich heritage of America's National Parks. The event will take place on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center, New York.

"While the loss of Dr. Franklin makes this special event bittersweet, we are nonetheless honored to recognize his unfailing support of our national parks and their role in preserving American history, culture and heritage," said Robert L. Harris, Chairman of AAEF. "Our national parks protect our history in the places where it happened so that all citizens can have permanent access to and benefit from the extraordinary treasure of our heritage. It is our duty as citizens to preserve these important landmarks as national parks and protect the very best of American ideals." Proceeds from this event will support youth education programs at national parks and historic sites that preserve and celebrate African-American history and culture.

A graduate of Fisk University, Dr. Franklin received both his A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Harvard University. His illustrious 60 year teaching career that began Fisk University took him to such prestigious institutions as Howard University, Brooklyn College, where he was the first person of color to chair a major department, the University of Chicago and Duke University where he is currently the James B. Duke Professor of History Emeritus.

Dr. Franklin's passion for the history preserved in our national parks led to his chairmanship of the National Park System Advisory Board which produced the compelling 2001 report "Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century." He served on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund team that developed the sociological case for Brown v. Board of Education (now a national park) which led to the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision ending the legal segregation of black and white children in public schools. Dr. Franklin's numerous awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor awarded to him by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

"There is no one way to define Dr. John Hope Franklin. He's a scholar, a visionary, a leader, an activist and most importantly a friend," said documentarian, Ken Burns. "While his insight is always important we feel most fortunate to have him in our film as a father, as someone who understands that the experience of our parks is enhanced by the people you visit them with and that each generation must preserve them for the next."

Past honorees at the African American Experience Gala include; General Colin Powell, The Little Rock Nine, Ambassador Andrew Young and Congressman John Lewis.

About the African American Experience Fund
Established in 2001, the Washington-DC based African American Experience Fund ( of the National Park Foundation serves to connect all Americans to the role of African-Americans in our country's history by raising funds and establishing partnerships that support awareness of and programs at national parks and historic sites that preserve and celebrate African-American history and culture.

About the National Park Foundation
The National Park Foundation ( is an independent charitable organization chartered by Congress in 1967 to strengthen the connection between the American people and their national parks. As the official national non-profit partner of America's National Parks, the Foundation raises private funds, makes strategic grants, creates innovative partnerships and increases public awareness about the need and opportunity for park philanthropy. In its 2008 fiscal year, the National Park Foundation distributed grants and program support of $27.3M.

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