The physical home and birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia

Preserving Black History: Robert F. Smith and the National Park Foundation

America is home to a host of breathtaking national parks spanning the entire country. With the National Park System servicing more than 400 national parks across 84 million acres, there’s an integral and vast system in place to help protect and preserve these cultural landmarks. Preserving these precious national parks and heritage sites requires public and private sector collaboration, and this is a particular focus for the National Park Foundation (NPF). Robert F. Smith is a long-time supporter of the NPF, and has focused closely on initiatives to preserve many African American historic sites across the country.

What is the National Park Foundation? 

The National Park Foundation (NPF) is the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. As a partner, NPF provides privately funded support and builds strategic partnerships that will help protect and preserve America’s many national parks for generations to come. Since its commencement in 1967, this foundation flourished as citizens came together with the singular goal of protecting the many national parks across the country. Today, the National Park Foundation continues to preserve and enhance national parks with the support of countless dedicated citizens. Learn more about the history and mission of the National Park Foundation to see how far this organization has come over the years.

National Parks and Preserving Civil Rights History 

With a deep passion for the outdoors, fostered by his family’s visits to national parks during his formative years in Colorado, Robert F. Smith has been involved with and supported the National Park Foundation for many years, particularly in their efforts to protect African American history. In 2001, the African American Experience Fund was established with the goal of connecting people to the fundamental history of African Americans that is personified in our national parks.

Smith’s 2019 gift to the National Park Foundation was unique in that it was not in a forest, but in one of the largest cities in the country. The Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President, purchased the family homes where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born and lived with his family in Atlanta. The King homes, a part of the National Historic Site, were immediately passed to the National Park Foundation for preservation, so that future generations of African Americans can experience fundamental historic places that have shaped our culture as a nation.

“A key component of Fund II Foundation’s mission is to bring African American history to life and preserve it for generations,” said Robert F Smith. “This grant will help make it possible for all people to experience and learn first-hand about Dr. King’s legacy and the civil rights stories that are part of our shared American heritage.”

In response to the donation, National Park Foundation President Will Shafroth noted, “The homes where Dr. King was born and where he raised his family with Coretta Scott King are critical pieces of American history that will now be preserved in perpetuity and their stories shared digitally. The National Park Foundation is honored to have worked with the Fund II Foundation, the King Center, the estate of Coretta Scott King, and the National Park Service on this incredibly important effort.”

How to Get Involved with the National Park Foundation

If you wish to get involved with supporting the National Park Foundation, there are many different ways to show your support:

  • Make a donation
  • Volunteer at a national park
  • Become a corporate park partner
  • Visit a national park
  • Share your love for national parks

Learn more about other organizations that Robert F. Smith supports.