The National Park Service has installed a new wayside exhibit outside the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center on the history of segregation at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The exhibit highlights a former garage that in the 1930s and 1940s housed segregated restrooms for African-American visitors. One of those restrooms is still in use and retains original tile and fixtures. The larger building is today the park’s gift shop and bookstore.
The new exhibit was a collaborative effort between the National Park Service (NPS) and the University of Mary Washington (UMW) to highlight surviving historic resources—buildings and landscape features—related to the local and national story of racial segregation at national parks. UMW’s Dr. Erin Devlin is currently working with the NPS to develop a historic resource study that will examine the practice of racial segregation in Virginia’s national parks during the first half of the 20th century.
The new wayside exhibit had its genesis in Dr. Devlin’s Introduction to Public History course, where students worked on a number of projects dealing with segregation and facilities at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. These projects included the creation of a digitized archive of photos related to the segregated camps of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that worked on the local battlefield park, curricular materials and lesson plans related to CCC camps, and this wayside exhibit highlighting the African-American restroom facilities at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center.
The new exhibit is a permanent addition to the park’s interpretive landscape. The grounds at the Sunken Road and around the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center are open sunrise to sunset.