The history of African Americans is typically thought of as people and events, but those could not come together without places and spaces. In an effort to preserve many of the sites where Black History events occurred, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is working to protect sites that tell the story of Black America. The Trust shared a few photos with EBONY.com exhibiting some of them. All of these sites are a part of the National Trust’s National Treasure program where it is making a long-term commitment to find a preservation solution. For more information, visit www.savingplaces.org.
- Madam CJ Walker’s Villa Lewaro: Built in 1917, Villa Lewaro is the residence of America’s first self-made female millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker. Her home, a symbol of the optimism and perseverance of American entrepreneurialism, is in need of preservation protections. The National Trust is working to explore protection strategies, to understand the building’s potential, and to develop a documentary on Walker’s legacy and Villa Lewaro.
- Pullman National Monument: George Pullman founded the nation’s first model industrial town in 1880 to attract skilled workers to his Pullman Palace Car Company, which manufactured railroad passenger cars. Pullman has a historic connection to the first all African-American union in the country—the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, organized by Asa Philip Randolph—which negotiated a major labor agreement with the Pullman Company in 1937 leading to better wages and hours. Designated a National Monument by President Obama in 2015, visitors from all over the world can now learn about its unique history.
- Rosenwald Schools: Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, philanthropist and president of Sears Roebuck, built state-of-the art schools for African- American children across the South. The effort has been called the most important initiative to advance black education in the early 20th century. Attending a Rosenwald School put a student at the vanguard of education for southern African American children. The architecture of the schools was a tangible statement of the equality of all children, and their programming made them a focal point of community identity and aspirations. The National Trust is providing technical assistance, grants, workshops, and conferences to help save these icons of progressive architecture for community use.
- Pauli Murray House: The Pauli Murray House was the home of Pauli Murray (1910-1985), an African American Civil Rights and Women’s Rights activist, the lawyer responsible for much of the Civil Rights law used in cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education, a writer, the first African American Episcopal priest and an Episcopal saint. The National Trust is working alongside the Pauli Murray Project to rehabilitate the Pauli Murray House to become the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice.
- Hinchliffe Stadium: The stadium is one of the few remaining stadiums in the country associated with Negro League baseball. Built by the city from 1932-33 and owned by the Paterson Public Schools since 1963, it was closed in 1996 and fell victim to neglect and vandalism. In its heyday, the stadium served as home field for the elite New York Black Yankees, the New York Cuban Stars, and the Newark Eagles. The National Trust is working alongside the City of Paterson, the National Park Service and the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium to establish a preservation plan, that can be used as a model for similar historic structures.
- A.G. Gaston Motel: Known for housing MLK’s war room during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, the A.G. Gaston Motel represents the ingenuity and vitality of the African-American community in the city of Birmingham. Built as a place of luxury for minorities during the days of segregation, the Gaston stood at the center of several significant chapters of the Civil Rights movement. Now vacant for more than twenty years, the motel is badly deteriorating. In collaboration with Birmingham, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and other local, state, and national partners, the National Trust is developing planning documents and real estate analysis, and exploring options for utilizing tax credits to protect the iconic cultural site for future generations to come.
- African House: Seated along the Cane River in northern Louisiana, the African House at Melrose Plantation may be the only building of its type still standing in the U.S. But this unique place – which incorporates both African and French influences – is deteriorating. Restoring the African House will preserve the stories of both the Cane River Creoles who ordered it built and the enslaved Africans who constructed it, as well as that of Clementine Hunter, a sharecropper whose now-famous folk art once hung there. We must work together to restore the African House, and share its story with the public.