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Shenandoah National Park asking for Lewis Mountain stories as part of historical project

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 7:22 PM EST
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LURAY, Va. (WHSV) - Shenandoah National Park is looking for stories from former visitors of their family members who stayed at the Lewis Mountain Campground during the era of Segregation. Lewis Mountain was the designated area of the park for African-Americans from 1939 until the park was integrated in 1950.

The park is now looking for stories and photos from the time period as to create an interactive online history project.

“What we want to do is talk about the story of segregation and de-segregation and then also the story of the Lewis Mountain developed area and the folks that used that place as a place of recreation,” said Claire Comer, interpretive specialist for Shenandoah National Park.

Comer said Lewis Mountain was frequented by prominent African-Americans of the time like General Benjamin Davis and Chester Franklin, publisher of the Kansas City Call.

“We’re working with the Library of Congress to help us flesh out some of the stories. There are some things that we just don’t know that we’d like to know,” said Comer. “We’d love to hear from more people who vacationed there to get a feel of what that was like.”

Comer said the park is hoping to collect more first-hand documents from the time.

“What we would really love to find is photos, home movies, post cards, letters that reference it, any information or supporting documents that anyone might have about that area,” she said.

The park hopes that the interactive online curriculum will help enrich the experience of students and guest to the park looking to learn about the history of the park and the era of segregation.

“We’re trying to flesh out all of those stories, what it was like at Lewis Mountain during that time and then the rather controversial and difficult story of the desegregation process and how that went in the park,” said Comer.

The Shenandoah Valley Black History project has also done research work to help preserve and explore the history of Lewis Mountain.

“I believe that they have found some staff members, some chefs, some musicians who played music in the lodge there, so it’s just a super rich story and we would love to hear from anyone who has memories of Lewis Mountain,” said Comer.

The park asks anyone with stories or photos from the time period to call the park’s information line at 540-999-3500.

You can learn more about Lewis Mountain and the park’s history of segregation and desegregation here.

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