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Michael Allen

 Michael Allen has served with distinction in various National Park Service (NPS) posts since 1980 and currently serves as the Community Partnership Specialist with the Southeast Regional Office. He has a deep-seeded interest in our nation’s spiritual growth as it relates to the history and culture and has been a community activist for most of his professional life.  He has tireless work over the course of thirty-five years with the National Park Service and community groups in South Carolina and the Southeastern United States. He is native of Kingstree and now lives in Mt. Pleasant SC with his wife Latanya Allen of 28 years.  He is the father of three children Brandon, Shaelyn and Isaiah.

 

Michael Allen was in charge of the creation of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (GGCHC) established in 2006 by an Act of Congress. The GGCHC is the first African American Heritage area in the country. It encompasses parts of coastal North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida central to the heritage of the Gullah Geechee people whose enslaved African ancestors transformed the area’s tidal topography to create rice fields that supported the most profitable agricultural industry in the United States until the end of slavery.  He was instrumental in establishing the twenty-five member Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Commission that includes representatives from each of the four states in the corridor.  He was appointed the Commission’s coordinator and led the development of a management plan that would guide the Commission in making the GGCHC a reality.  This involved engaging the Gullah-Geechee communities in the preservation, study, and appreciation of their heritage as well as promoting the effort to the wider community.  Completed in 2012, the GGCHC Management Plan provides a blueprint for the preservation, interpretation, cultural tourism, economic development, and sustainability of the GGCHC as part of our national history.  On May 6, 2013, the comprehensive and groundbreaking document developed under Michael Allen’s leadership was approved by the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell.  Michael has continued to advise the Commission in the implementation of the Management Plan. 

Michael A. Allen grew up in Kingstree, South Carolina. He is a 1978 graduate of Kingstree Senior High School. He graduated in 1982 from South Carolina State University with a degree in History Education. Michael began his career as a Cooperative Education Student with the National Park Service in 1980. He has served as a Park Ranger, Education Specialist, and Community Partnership Specialist for the GGCHC/Fort Sumter National Monument and Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.  Throughout his more than thirty-five years with the National Park service,  Michael Allen has participated in creating exhibitions and educational programs that involve local communities and attract nontraditional audiences. He was instrumental in the 1999 placement of the “African American Importation Historical Marker” on Sullivan’s Island and in 2008 assisted the Toni Morrison Society in placing a “Bench by the Road” at Fort Moultrie to memorialize the area’s role in the African slave trade.  In 2009, he led the installation of the exhibition “African Passages” at the Ft. Moultrie Visitor’s Center telling the stories of enslaved Africans and African Americans who passed through Charleston to help build the country we know today.

Michael Allen was recently assigned by the National Park Service to head the National Historic Landmark Theme Study on the U.S. Reconstruction Era, 1861-1898,   Theme studies are an effective way of identifying and nominating properties for preservation in a national historical context and, therefore, allow for the comparative analysis of properties associated with a specific area of American history.   The National Historic Landmark Theme Study on Reconstruction is part of a process designed to enhance public understanding of this complex and contested period.    The project will include the first comprehensive review of nationally significant historic sites of the Reconstruction Era.  It will bring attention to the history of the period of emancipation and Reconstruction after the Civil War  and help educate all Americans about this often ignored or misunderstood period in our rich historyBy emphasizing the themes of black institution-building, violence and civil unrest, enfranchisement and the expansion of democracy, land and labor reform, the expansion of Federal power, and the remaking of the South, the Reconstruction theme study will provide a framework for an invigorated public understanding of the period.

 

Michael Allen has served the community beyond the NPS throughout his career. He was a founding member of Charleston’s International African American Museum and was appointed a member of the South Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee. Michael Allen was a founding member and former Vice President of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission. He is the past Treasurer of the South Carolina Council for African American Studies. He has served as a board member of the African American Historical Alliance, Habitat for Humanity, East Cooper and Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association, and the South Carolina Heritage Alliance Commission. In 2013, he was elected President of the Charleston Alumni Chapter of South Carolina State University. That same year he received the Historic Preservation Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award from South Carolina Governor Nikki  Haley, the Palmetto Trust, and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. He was presented with the South Carolina State University Distinguished Alumnus Award.   In September 2014, he received the Robert Stanton Diversity Award from  Clemson University. He was recently appointed a member of the NPS Cultural Resources Advisory Board. Michael continues to be an advisor to Charleston’s Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. in the program planning and construction of the International American Museum on the site of Charleston’s historic Gadsden’s Wharf, the last site in North American where shackled African men, women, and children legally disembarked to be sold into slavery.  


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