Woman Crush Wednesday: Eola Dance

Amy Phillips

This week’s #WomanCrushWednesday goes out to Eola Dance, Supervisor of Resource Stewardship and Science at Colonial National Historic Park and 19-year veteran of the National Park Service. 

She’s an interdisciplinary public historian, leading a team of curators, biologists and archaeologists in managing natural and cultural resources. In other (very oversimplified) words, she makes history come alive! Eola’s great-great grandfather was born enslaved. He was eight years old when the Civil War ended and went on to become a longshoreman in New Orleans. He invested in the Black Star Line and the Mound Bayou Oil Company, companies meant to encourage black self-determination and economic independence. His example is an inspiration for her and she believes her life’s purpose is to create opportunities to tell these stories, through her academic and professional work. 

She’s also motivated by the lives and accomplishments of her grandmothers, and by how individual stories illuminate our shared history. Think of it this way – all Americans have a shared narrative. But the way Eola sees it, histories are told in silos: Native American history, women’s history, black history… that’s not an accurate representation of how life was experienced, in the past. While people may have divergent ideas and experiences, there’s a shared history, and everyone’s voices should be represented. Connecting descendant communities is essential. Eola is currently leading her team in uncovering a Native place in the Chesapeake Landscape – a 400 year old site, discovered in just the last decade! She’s working with the tribes and other leaders to create a native space that will be open to the public. She considers it a privilege to see new places and connect with folks she otherwise wouldn’t. Growing up in Hampton, Virginia, her family frequently visited historic places. Last year marked the 400-year anniversary of African arrival in the English colonies – if you want to understand more about the making of America, Eola challenges you to learn about the 400 Year Commission Programs and the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent. Also, visit sites like Fort Monroe and Historic Jamestown. 

Eola herself is still learning, currently working her way through a Doctorate at Howard University, studying public history and the African Diaspora with emphasis on first contact between Native Americans, English settlers and Afri

cans in the Chesapeake Bay Region. She earned a bachelor’s degree in History from Southern University A&M College and a master’s in Historic Preservation from Savannah College of Art and Design. She started her career as a preservationist through a federal program that recruited students for summer jobs with the National Park Service. Eola started at Mount Rainier then went on to work at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, becoming a permanent Park Service employee. Years ago, she served as a park ranger.

In her free time, she loves painting, running, doing yoga, enjoying nature and spending time with her three sons. Final fun fact about Eola – her sister is our beloved Benefit Auctioneer Specialist, Naomi Lewis!

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