Longwood grad earns Park Service Award

Published 12:01 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Freeman Tilden Award is the highest honor presented to a National Park Service employee for their outstanding contributions in interpretation and education. This year’s Northeast Regional award goes to Ernie Price, a Longwood University graduate and chief of education and visitor services, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.

The Freeman Tilden Award is an annual award recognizing outstanding contributions to the public through interpretation by a National Park Service employee. The award was created in 1982 to stimulate and reward creative work by National Park Service employees resulting in positive impacts upon the visiting public.

As part of the commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial at Appomattox Court House National Historic site Price created the Footsteps to Freedom program that honored the life and death of Hannah Reynolds, an enslaved woman in Appomattox County.

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In the final hours of fighting on the morning of April 9, 1865, Hannah suffered a mortal wound and died from those wounds three days later as a free woman. The program included a first-person eulogy for Hannah Reynolds, a choral performance by over 100 members from several local black churches and a commemorative funeral procession following the eulogy along the park’s main stage road through the historic village. More than 1,000 attendees were invited to follow the funeral procession and walk along the stage road illuminated by 4,600 candles — one candle for every enslaved person in Appomattox County who realized freedom with the surrender of Lee’s army and the war’s end.

Through the planning of this program Price forged new partnerships with the local African American community including several churches and the Carver Price Legacy Museum that gave voice to the themes of emancipation and the beginning of the reconstruction era. The energy from these new partnerships is creating opportunities to share stories from the African American perspective both in the park and in the community.  In addition, Price promoted a study on United States Colored Troops who fought at Appomattox resulting in funding provided by the park’s Friends Group to support this research. The study revealed that 5,000 United States black troops participated in the Appomattox Campaign.

Price is originally from Lynchburg and now lives in near Appomattox with his wife and 8-year-old daughter. He earned his undergraduate degree in history from Longwood College and Master’s of Education from Lynchburg College.

After review by a panel in Washington, D.C. the national winner will be announced in a ceremony at the National Association for Interpretation conference in Virginia Beach.