Civil War to Civil Rights Interpretation: Best Practices for Heritage Interpreters

This course provides best practices for interpreters charged with developing programs where Civil War and Civil Rights stories intersect.





This course outlines best practices for heritage interpreters in Civil War to Civil Rights interpretation. The course will help interpreters enhance their research skills, develop an eye for identifying where the Civil War and Civil Rights stories intersect, and assemble a toolbox of interpretive techniques and tips specially tailored to these two meaningful topics.

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This training began as a Civil War to Civil Rights research project. The research component, in which researchers investigated currentthe interpretation methods being being used at eight specificdifferent NPS Civil War and Civil Rights sites, the number and types of visitors to these sites, and presumed explanations as toreasons why visitors are traveling to these parks or sites, as well as the reasons why visitors are not traveling to these sitesdo or do not travel to these sites. The ultimate goal of this research wais to assistimprove training development for interpreters at Civil War and Civil Rights themed sites.

Course Schedule

This course is self-paced, allowing learners the flexibility to complete the course as quickly or slowly as they need. While exploring course content, learners can investigate topics in greater detail through enrichment activities that link to real-world examples, original source materials, and policy documents. Learners can easily move from section to section as they navigate through the course, revisiting concepts as needed.

The course includes a best practices workbook, a set of videos, and a companion guide rather than other traditional e-course elements. The workbook outlines the researchers’ questions, methodology, and results and offers best practices for heritage interpreters in Civil War to Civil Rights interpretation. These best practices take the form of case study examples from the eight sites featured in the study and include discussion topics and questions that can be used by supervisors when leading staff training events. The series of videos demonstrates various interpretive techniques that can be used in Civil War and Civil Rights interpretation. The techniques exhibited in the videos are described in the companion guide, which also includes literature reviews in the form of annotated bibliographies.

After completing all course activities, you will complete a brief assessment to demonstrate your understanding of key course concepts. Upon successful completion of the assessment, you will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Be able to:

  • Identify where Civil War and Civil Rights stories intersect.
  • Identify objectives for a monitoring program.
  • Enhance your research skills.
  • Assemble a toolbox of interpretive techniques and tips specially tailored to these topics.

Recommended Background

The free Foundations of Interpretation course provides essential background information for this course.


Wonderful courseReview by Robby
This course showed my own hypocrisy in relation to Southern hypocrisy in hating the skin color of black yet Confederate soldiers turned black once they died. Very eye-opening. (Posted on 5/25/2020)
imformal video Review by Hunter
I feel that the videos were very interesting and helped understand how to properly translate information depending on the topic. (Posted on 5/22/2020)
goodReview by Arthur
I liked the story telling and connections made to the tangible objects in the video. (Posted on 5/20/2020)
Very informativeReview by Emily
Loved the correlations throughout history to the specific sites! Very informative and powerful. (Posted on 5/17/2020)
Very informativeReview by Terry
I realize there are so many approaches to the courses I will take with Eppley. This will enhance my ability to conduct the kind of programs that the visitors will feel and experience. (Posted on 4/29/2020)
Civil War Civil Rights ParallelsReview by Lorne
I really enjoyed program examples from specific sites.

The videos showed excellent historic parallels between civil rights and the civil war. (Posted on 4/21/2020)
Assessment was uniqueReview by different
At this moment I do not know if I passed the course or not. In spite of that I did enjoy the ability to free write the response instead of the customary multiple choice. I believe this takes longer to asses and answers are more subjective, but I did enjoy writing my thoughts in response to these questions. Well Done! (Posted on 4/13/2020)
InsightfulounReview by Holloman
Found the course well thought out and well written. It was also insightful and relevant. (Posted on 4/11/2020)
insightfullReview by Holloman
I found the course helpful, relevant and insightful. would recommend as a must read interpreters (Posted on 4/11/2020)
Informative and Thought-ProvokingReview by Anna
As someone with little experience in historical interpretation, this course was very helpful. I loved the emphasis on interpreting the Civil War and Civil Rights with a broader and current approach. It is important to relate these events to current times, not simply explaining military tactics and war heroes. I learned a lot! (Posted on 4/10/2020)
Great!Review by C
This has been my favorite course thus far, it included a number of videos while also providing text documentation. (Posted on 4/10/2020)
This was very good. Review by Mary
This was very good. The only thing I would chance is having picture of JBJ at Gettysburg in 1963 and not at Arlington National Cemetery. That was confusing. (Posted on 4/9/2020)
Great CourseReview by John
I enjoyed this course. I think the videos were very informational, along with the guide and report. These will be good to hold on to and research in the future. (Posted on 4/3/2020)
Informative but flawedReview by David
Other related interpretation programs stress the need for diverse view points/perspectives and thoughtful consideration/review of language used - policies that I feel was failed to be represented in these videos. Issues regarding the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement are clearly contentious, but those focusing on battles seem to only present the everyday Confederate soldier as nothing but a means to 'drag people back to slavery.' While they should by no means be raised as paradigms of freedom, this would seem to immediately alienate those who may hold a personal connection to the Confederacy. They will shutdown and reject any further information, thereby maintaining their possible admiration of the flawed Confederacy, rather than looking at it from a different angle or perspective for growth.

The above flows over into the general use of language where all of the previously enslaved people are referred to simply as slaves and their descendants as children of former slaves. Perhaps People First language is newer than these videos, but these people should not be represented and defined only as slaves. This applies to other smaller pieces as well, such as the enslaved woman owned by Emund Pettus 'helping around the house' rather than that being her required duties as dictated by those running the household and not a willing choice. (Posted on 3/27/2020)
Well thoughtReview by Ja'Kira
It was a lot of videos but not enough information for me. (Posted on 12/20/2019)
HelpfulReview by Zack
The course is and will be helpful for people not necessarily inclined towards interpretation of a cultural context. This is to say for people whom do not come from a historical or social science disposition or background, aimed as scientists, artists, foresters, etc. (Posted on 11/8/2019)
Very informative and thought provokingReview by LEANORA
I enjoyed the learning in this immensely. Every video was just enough time and the learning was extremely rewarding and fascinating. I found myself wanting to learn more and more.
My especial favorite was connecting the dots with the Civil War and with Civil Rights.
Going to museums and NPS sites are so much more rewarding when you have historical based detailed knowledge through courses like this. (Posted on 10/14/2019)
Excellent course for a new perspectiveReview by Max
Each of the videos covered similar stories in different timelines using different techniques, making it a good thought provoking exercise. The essay questions were similarly useful. (Posted on 9/30/2019)
Great! Review by John Peterson
Thank you, this course was very useful and relevant to my needs. I particularly like the extensive reviews of how various other sites address Civil War and Civil Rights themes. (Posted on 7/12/2019)
Good informationReview by Patricia
This course was very good. The videos were great examples to use for both experienced and non-experienced interpretive park guides. All of the videos made me want to learn more about each presented park. (Posted on 1/25/2019)
Not in depth Review by Patsy
It was okay. I was looking for more (Posted on 10/16/2018)
Well done.Review by Michael
Some of the videos were a let down. "The Black at High Water Mark" failed to elaborate why Abraham Brien and family left the area. Based on several works including "High Tide at Gettysburg" by Glenn Tucker, the Brien family and other freedmen left the Gettysburg area due to the belief that the Confederate army was bring sets of chains to return any African American to slavery. Also the Dunkers, much like the Quakers, were a peace church. Owning slaves may have been a way of defeating the intent of the law while obeying the letter. In North Carolina the larger slaveholding communities were Quakers, but only in name. Many slaves were "owned" by the Quaker Meetings, while they lived their own lives.
These mentions aside the videos "Lincoln and LBJ at Gettysburgh" and "Harper's Ferry's 12,500 Men" were thought provoking and highly interesting.
Well done overall. (Posted on 10/2/2018)
Informative and Thought Provoking Review by Emily
I enjoyed this course. The variety of teaching methods utilized (reading, video, questioning) were successfully in assisting my learning and the integration of information into my current work. In addition, the videos were very thought provoking - doing exactly what interpretation should do - enticing me to learn more. I found myself researching topics mentioned in the videos to expand my knowledge! (Posted on 9/24/2018)
Good courseReview by Jack
The information presented was very good and well prepared. The information was very informative. (Posted on 11/16/2017)
greatReview by Saad
Good (Posted on 11/13/2017)

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