Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Dr. Joyce Haines


America's National Historic Preservation Act promotes the conservation of irreplaceable sites such as Nicodemus, Kansas, an African American town founded by former slaves in 1877. The collaboration of the National Park Service (NPS) and civic partners is essential to meet the goal of preserving historic properties in Nicodemus and other minority communities. Although the NPS designated 5 Nicodemus buildings as a National Historic Site (NHS) in 1996, the few remaining residents struggle to preserve the site and attract visitors. The purpose of this ethnographic study was to explore the effects of NPS policies related to African American historic and cultural preservation. Research questions focused on the consequences of the NHS designation in Nicodemus and options for NPS policy improvement. This study was inspired by Innes and Booher's theory of complex adaptive systems and consensus building. Data were collected through interviews with 11 residents, educators, and representatives of the NPS. These data were inductively coded and then subjected to thematic analysis. Key findings indicate concerns about limited resources, NPS open competition hiring policies that do not promote the long-term employment of Nicodemus descendant-residents in spite of their ability to recount oral histories, a need for cross-cultural training in the NPS, and the inadequate promotion of the Nicodemus NHS. This study may lead to positive social change by emphasizing the need for the NPS to collaborate with the descendants and long-term residents of rural communities to preserve the historical legacy of African Americans and emphasize the strength of our nation's diversity.