Out of the 1860s, as the United States engaged in a civil war, abolished slavery, and remade the government, the public park emerged as a product of these dramatic changes. New York’s Central Park and Yosemite in California both embodied the “new birth of freedom” that emphasized the duty of republican government to enhance the lives and well-being of all its new citizens. A central figure directly connected with abolition, the Civil War, and the dawn of urban and national parks is Frederick Law Olmsted, whose pre-war journalism about the South, design work on Central Park, and ground-breaking Yosemite Report created an intellectual framework for the “park idea.”

Marking the bicentennial of Olmsted’s birth, a new book by Rolf Diamant, former superintendent of Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site and Ethan Carr, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, offers a new interpretation of how the American park—urban and national—came to figure so prominently in our cultural identity, and why this more complex and inclusive story deserves to be told.

Just in time for the Arnold Arboretum’s sesquicentennial, Diamant and Carr will speak on their insightful book.

Presented in collaboration with Friends of Fairsted, the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, and the Library of American Landscape History. For additional programming highlighting the Arboretum sesquicentennial and Olmsted bicentennial, visit the Arboretum’s website: https://arboretum.harvard.edu/arnold150/programming/