Many Americans have fond memories of a national park experience. Whether it’s taking a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains with a friend, being amazed by the Grand Canyon on a family trip, or receiving a history lesson at Gettysburg, the experiences parks provide are incomparable.
For that reason, nearly all Americans agree these sites—which embody the nation’s beauty, culture, and history—need to be protected. Though the parks face a number of threats—a lack of funding, environmental degradation, and urban development, just to name a few—the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) works every day across the country to protect these public lands so they can continue to educate and inspire for generations to come.
How do we do this? By speaking up on behalf of parks to keep them safe from threats, preserving and promoting the history they house, and conserving the lands that define and exemplify the greatest aspects of our nation.
NPCA is made up of more than one million park lovers devoted to advocating for and protecting our country’s favorite places. The nationwide team of activists, advocates, volunteers, community organizers, lobbyists, communicators, and more are on the forefront of the fight, providing opportunities for citizens to understand the threats facing parks and act against them. NPCA’s mission is to defend and strengthen parks. We encourage others to join the movement and lend their voices to protecting America’s favorite places.
This goal is no more apparent than in the Pullman District of Chicago, one of the most recent additions to the National Park System. This location, site of the Pullman strike of 1894, represents the diversity and interconnectedness of American history, being a place where significant advancements were made in American industrialization, black civil rights, and the labor movement.
In 1894 the Pullman Company laid off workers and cut pay while refusing to lower rents in their company town. George Pullman, president of the company, turned away workers who sought to raise concerns, and in return, they organized a strike. In an effort to support the strike, the American Railway Union—led by Eugene Debs—called for a massive boycott of Pullman railcars.
The boycott grew to include more than 100,000 railroad workers who refused to work with Pullman cars. A federal injunction was issued against the ARU, and President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops. By mid-July, the strike ended. While the workers did not achieve concessions from Pullman, it was during the time of the strike that President Cleveland created the national holiday known as Labor Day.
Later, in 1925, the Pullman Company became home to the first black labor union recognized by the American Federation of Labor, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BCSP). Black porters at Pullman had to pay for their food, lodging, and uniforms and perform unpaid preparatory work. After fighting against the combative Pullman Company, as well as racism both in the labor movement and in greater American society, the BSCP—led by A. Philip Randolph—was recognized by the National Mediation Board and the AFL in 1935. Finally, in 1937, they were able to sign their first collective bargaining agreement with Pullman.
In February 2015, Pullman was declared a national monument following NPCA’s efforts to build and amplify support for the designation among citizens and within Congress. Establishing Pullman as part of the National Park System solidifies its importance to America’s history, and ensures the site will be preserved for years to come. NPCA’s efforts lent power to the community voices that called for this designation, and pushed the call before Congress and the president, resulting in an outcome that all Americans and park lovers can celebrate.
Pullman is just one of hundreds of sites within America’s National Park System that tell our country’s story. This is what NPCA fights to protect. We dedicate every day to preserving and protecting our national parks future generation can enjoy the same park experiences and stories that so many Americans already hold close. Next year is the centennial of the National Park System’s creation, and we hope you can help the NPCA (CFC# 12069) protect America’s most precious places for the next 100 years.
Visit www.npca.org to learn more about the Pullman District and all of the sites the NPCA is working to preserve!