Big Bend National Park uncovers little-known Black history within its archive

Photos provided by Big Bend National Park show African American men who worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the park. Courtesy of the Wurz Collection, Big Bend National Park archives. Wesley Wurz Photographer.

BIG BEND — From the 1930s through 1940s, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked across the country on public improvement projects, including the impressive feat of building out Big Bend National Park on the remote border of Texas. The first CCC group arrived at BBNP in 1934, working on roads and trails in the Chisos Mountains.

While around 80% of the young adults working at the camp in Big Bend were Hispanic, recently unearthed photos in the park’s archives showed a different facet of the workforce: young African American men were photographed during their time working for the CCC in the park. Little is known about these young men –– including who they were, where they were from or what types of work they contributed to the colossal effort to build Big Bend National Park.

In honor of February’s Black History Month, the park highlighted and celebrated these individuals. “Throughout the 1930s, these men completed improvements on the Chisos Basin Road and built the Lost Mine, Window, Laguna Meadows, Juniper Flat (now a part of the Pinnacles Trail) and the Basin Loop trails,” the park wrote on social media. “Their excellent workmanship and distinct rock work can still be seen.”

Little else is known about the men pictured or their works, so the park has begun to solicit more information from the public. If you recognize any of these men or have more information about their time in the Big Bend region, please send it to [email protected] to be shared with the park’s archive.