• African Americans;
  • Brown v. Board of Education;
  • Jim Crow;
  • race;
  • segregation;
  • state parks


African Americans had access to only a small number of state parks in the Jim Crow South. Between the end of World War II and the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, however, state park officials oversaw a relative expansion in the construction of facilities available to southern blacks. Emphasizing developments leading up to that landmark court ruling, I note that this trend did not indicate waning support for segregation among whites. Rather, this relative expansion was part of a strategy to protect Jim Crow by demonstrating that the “separate-but-equal” principle was being successfully achieved by southern park agencies. This intensified construction was largely a reaction to increasingly successful legal action in federal courts by the naacp generally; and officials in the state agencies hoped—unsuccessfully—to avoid challenges to state park segregation. After the Brown decision, several border states integrated their park systems, but most agencies displayed the reactionary defiance that characterized most white Southerners as the civil rights movement grew.