Written by Brent Leggs, Harvard Loeb Fellow, Boston Field Office
This post was adapted from its original version on the Preservation Leadership Forum blog.
At the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., visitors can tour the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed.
In 2004 my job as research assistant for the Kentucky Heritage Council was to inventory Rosenwald Schools in Kentucky. I traveled across the state to document what were the most advanced, architecturally designed school buildings constructed for African-American students between 1917 and 1932.
I was always excited when I found a Rosenwald School standing. Many times, however, nothing was left. It was as if these places had never existed; only landscapes remained, rich with memories of students walking to school. In many cases entire communities had disappeared. People had left rural areas for the big city, leaving significant parts of the history of African-Americans behind. I realized these stories would be all but erased from memory if we didn’t act to protect them.
My experience has shown me that the preservation of historic African-American sites often happens on an informal basis. To be sure, some significant sites associated with African American history are formally recognized and serve as permanent reminders about our ancestors and their journey in America -- for example, the African Meeting House in Boston or the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. But relatively few places that are important to or representative of the African American experience enjoy this level of recognition. ... Read More →
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.