• Learn How Preservationists Are Honoring the Legacy of Mary Cardwell Dawson

    February 1, 2021

    In the February 2021 issue of Opera News, learn more about Mary Cardwell Dawson, the founder of the longest-running, all-Black opera company in the United States, and the place where her vision took shape: the National Negro Opera Company house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    Understanding the current condition of the National Negro Opera Company house is critical at this moment. Standing vacant for decades, the building has deteriorated as a result of weather exposure and vandalism, prompting its listing on the 2020 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

    The National Trust has partnered with the NNOC’s owner, Jonnet Solomon, the Young Preservationists Association (YPA), and Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to help save the building. Together they are utilizing a $4,000 Intervention Fund grant awarded by the National Trust to assess the existing building conditions and prepare a report with recommendations and cost estimates for emergency stabilization.

  • Brent Leggs in The Art Newspaper: We Need Monuments Celebrating African American History

    July 3, 2020

    Nina Simone's Childhood Home, a white clapboard house with black trim.

    photo by: Nancy Pierce

    Nina Simone's Childhood Home (a National Treasure) in Tryon, North Carolina.

    Brent Leggs, executive director of the National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, has published a powerful op-ed in The Art Newspaper titled, "US needs monuments celebrating African American history, not Confederate statues."

    Leggs' article from July 3, 2020, outlines how "telling America’s overlooked stories is fundamental to building a true national identity." He advocates for acknowledging the unvarnished history behind Confederate monuments and taking the opportunity to expand the conversation in bold, more inclusive ways. Of note:

    "How should America preserve Confederate monuments so that we never forget their meaning and harm? What’s the role of the African American community, civic leaders, preservationists, artists and funders to envision landscapes of understanding and reconciliation? The purpose of preservation practice is not to stop change, but to offer tools that help a society manage change in ways that do not disconnect it from the legacy of its past. Done right, historic places can foster real healing, true equity and a validation of all Americans and their real history."

    Read Leggs' full essay to learn more about the Action Fund; sites of Black resilience, activism, and achievement; and possible approaches that "represent the best in the human experience."

  • Architectural Digest Explores "What Should Happen to Confederate Statues in the U.S."

    June 24, 2020

    As part of a renewed national conversation in June 2020 about what to do with Confederate monuments, Laura Itzkowitz of Architectural Digest weighed in with this June 24 article calling for America to "reexamine the monuments that purport to tell our country’s history."

    She quotes Paul Edmondson, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation: “Although some Confederate monuments were erected soon after the Civil War for reasons of memorialization, many were erected in subsequent years to serve to promote a Lost Cause mythology and to advance the ideals of white supremacy. Many of those monuments still stand but as symbols of those ideologies, and some of them have served as rallying points for bigotry and hate today.”

    She also shares thoughts from Brent Leggs, executive director of the National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, on how we might move forward: "Through meaningful dialogue, history, and the arts, our nation should explore how best to communicate the often-overlooked contributions and examples of Black excellence and activism to demonstrate our collective and contemporary values in public spaces. We should use this moment to create a more inclusive American landscape and public space that fills gaps in this nation’s civic identity."

    Read the full article to learn more about the complex and difficult history behind Confederate monuments.

  • "When Architecture and Racial Justice Intersect" Featured in Architectural Digest

    June 9, 2020

    Signage in front of God's Little Acre, a grantee of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

    photo by: Leigh Schoberth

    God's Little Acre in Newport, Rhode Island.

    The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund was recently the subject of an article in Architectural Digest titled, "When Architecture and Racial Justice Intersect."

    Published on June 8, 2020, and written by Laura Itzkowitz, the article spotlights the urgency and import of protecting African American historic places:

    "The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have rightfully placed a national spotlight on the institutional racism that continues to plague the United States. And while it would be easy to think that architecture has little to do with racial justice and civil rights, the fight to save African American historic places proves that preservation is political. If we want to educate future generations about Black history in America, we need to work to preserve Black historic sites now."

    Read the full article to learn more about the creation and ongoing work of the Action Fund, its executive director Brent Leggs, and the many projects under way that are helping to tell our full American story.

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