America's Sacred Spaces

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech on the National Mall in 1963


The United States possesses singular places where citizens and others can visit to absorb elements of the nation’s depth of pain, triumph, awe, reverence, disappointments and dreams. “Sacred spaces” in this context refers to understanding America by literally standing in places and taking in layers of meaning that plumb the depths of our national character.

This project team helped launch a multiyear, in-depth documentary research initiative to tell stories of 40 essential American places through an interactive website, app and field guide. Team members collected oral history narratives, images, maps, video and supplementary readings about two initial sites and identified people, community resources and archives to consult in each location.

Key resources for this team included The National Park Service and The Library of Congress and the team collaborated with Duke research librarians and archivists to learn research methods and materials preservation.