Author: Nick Sacco

Black Political Activism and the Fight for Voting Rights in Missouri

Black Political Activism and the Fight for Voting Rights in Missouri

If every person who declined to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election wore a “Did Not Vote” sticker, the total would number more than 100 million people, or four out of every ten Americans.[1] As we approach another election in 2020, a moment should be taken to remember the 15th ...
Read More
Public Monuments and Ulysses S. Grant’s Contested Legacy

Public Monuments and Ulysses S. Grant’s Contested Legacy

On Memorial Day, three million people watched the first part of a three-episode documentary on the life of General and President Ulysses S. Grant. Three weeks later—on the much-publicized Juneteenth holiday, no less—a statue of Grant in San Francisco was vandalized and toppled. What gives? The motivations for this act ...
Read More
Interpreting Slavery Through Video Games: The Story of <i>Freedom!</i>

Interpreting Slavery Through Video Games: The Story of Freedom!

As a child of the 1990s, some of my earliest memories revolve around playing PC video games. Whether connecting to the dial-up modem to play a racing game with my grandfather or walking with my classmates to the school computer lab, video games sparked my curiosity and provided countless hours ...
Read More
Missouri Compromised: Anti-Slavery Protest During the Missouri Statehood Debate

Missouri Compromised: Anti-Slavery Protest During the Missouri Statehood Debate

In his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, the philosopher Avishai Margalit argues that "we should be judged by our compromises more than by our ideals and norms. Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be. But compromises tell us who we are."[1] The essence ...
Read More
Teaching the Reconstruction Era Through Political Cartoons

Teaching the Reconstruction Era Through Political Cartoons

During this past fall semester I received an email from a curriculum coordinator at a local school district. She stated that a high school history teacher was running short on time, but wanted to spend one day with his students discussing the Reconstruction era before the end of the semester ...
Read More
Removing Slavery from Westward Expansion: Two Case Studies of Public Memorials in Missouri

Removing Slavery from Westward Expansion: Two Case Studies of Public Memorials in Missouri

The town of Marthasville, Missouri, is located about forty-five miles west of St. Louis. The oldest town in Warren County, Marthasville today is a quiet place with fertile farmland, a lakeside resort, and numerous wineries. Although I have lived in Missouri most of my life, I had never been to ...
Read More
Are Tourists Falling Out of Love with Civil War Battlefields? Public Historians Respond

Are Tourists Falling Out of Love with Civil War Battlefields? Public Historians Respond

Last year I published a post on this website about visitation trends to Civil War historic sites within the National Park Service (NPS) during the Civil War Sesquicentennial from 2011 to 2015. After looking at the numbers I concluded that visitation to these sites remained relatively strong, but not everyone ...
Read More
The Contested Memories of General Nathaniel Lyon in St. Louis

The Contested Memories of General Nathaniel Lyon in St. Louis

The removal of a Confederate monument from its original dedication spot in Forest Park almost two years ago aroused a great deal of controversy among St. Louis residents. Like the debates taking place in other cities that have Confederate iconography, supporters praised the removal of a monument they considered to ...
Read More
Freeman Tilden’s <i>Interpreting Our Heritage</i> and the Civil War Centennial

Freeman Tilden’s Interpreting Our Heritage and the Civil War Centennial

On March 30, 2019, a group of public historians will convene at the National Council on Public History’s Annual Meeting to discuss the interpreter Freeman Tilden’s 1957 publication, Interpreting Our Heritage. My fellow NPS colleague Allison Horrocks and I created this conference panel to discuss Tilden's ideas in historical context ...
Read More
The Mystery of William Jones, An Enslaved Man Owned by Ulysses S. Grant

The Mystery of William Jones, An Enslaved Man Owned by Ulysses S. Grant

On March 29, 1859, Ulysses S. Grant went to the St. Louis Courthouse to attend to a pressing legal matter. That day Grant signed a manumission paper freeing William Jones, an enslaved African American man that he had previously acquired from his father-in-law, "Colonel" Frederick F. Dent. Described as being ...
Read More
Congressman Charles Hays and the Civil Rights Act of 1875

Congressman Charles Hays and the Civil Rights Act of 1875

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution dramatically transformed American society during the Reconstruction era. The amendments abolished slavery, established the concepts of birthright citizenship and equal protection of the laws, and granted all men the right to vote, regardless of color. For most members of the ...
Read More
Every Social Media Manager a Historian: Reflections on Interpreting History Through NPS Social Media

Every Social Media Manager a Historian: Reflections on Interpreting History Through NPS Social Media

In one of his final acts as President of the United States, Barack Obama utilized the power of the 1906 Antiquities Act to establish Reconstruction Era National Monument (REER) in Beaufort, South Carolina, as a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) on January 12, 2017. Like many historians of ...
Read More
Exit Through the Gift Shop: Historical Memory and Gift Shops at Civil War Historic Sites

Exit Through the Gift Shop: Historical Memory and Gift Shops at Civil War Historic Sites

When I was a graduate student living in Indiana, I made a point of visiting historical sites connected to the Civil War throughout the state. One of my favorites was the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville. Situated in a quiet neighborhood in northwest Indiana, the site preserves ...
Read More
A Statistical Analysis of Visitation to National Park Service Civil War Sites During the Sesquicentennial

A Statistical Analysis of Visitation to National Park Service Civil War Sites During the Sesquicentennial

In early 2017, the National Park Service released an official report on its efforts to educate visitors about the American Civil War during its sesquicentennial anniversary (2011-2015). Plans to organize educational programming for the sesquicentennial started as early as 1998, when a group of Superintendents at NPS Civil War sites ...
Read More
Outrageous Inaccuracies: The Grand Army of the Republic Protests <em>The Birth of a Nation</em>

Outrageous Inaccuracies: The Grand Army of the Republic Protests The Birth of a Nation

When the motion picture film The Birth of a Nation was released in 1915, most veterans of the American Civil War were in their seventies and eighties. Membership in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)—the largest fraternal organization of Union veterans in the country—had declined by that time to ...
Read More
Public Iconography, Museum Education, and Reconstruction Era History

Public Iconography, Museum Education, and Reconstruction Era History

Today, correspondent Nick Sacco shares his first Field Dispatch. Nick is a public historian working for the National Park Service as a Park Guide at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri. He holds a master's degree in history with a concentration in public history from ...
Read More