7 HOPE Crew Projects Honoring African-American History

June 19, 2017 by Jessica Pumphrey

Every Juneteenth, we honor the declaration of freedom for enslaved people across North America following the end of the Civil War in 1865, remember the lives of those who fought for liberty, and reflect on both our American history and common humanity.

To commemorate this incredible American story, the National Trust’s Hands-On Preservation Experience (also known as HOPE Crew) has commissioned its 100th project at Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia. The story of Fort Monroe bookends the slavery experience in America: In 1619, the first enslaved Africans in the New World landed at the future site of the fort, and in 1861, more than 500,000 African-Americans seized their own liberty there, declaring themselves contraband and essentially spurring the beginnings of the Civil War-era freedom movement.

In celebration of Fort Monroe’s rich history and to secure its place in our future, HOPE Crew, in partnership with the National Park Service and the Fort Monroe Authority, will deploy a team of national experts and young, local participants from The Corps Network’s member corps to rehabilitate Fort Monroe National Monument’s historic quarters this summer.

Since its inception in 2014, HOPE Crew has engaged young people in diverse communities around the country by teaching the tools and techniques of preservation trades and offering opportunities to rehabilitate historic places in need. Many of HOPE Crew's project sites reflect the often-neglected history of African-Americans in the United States. Here's a look back at some of the incredible projects corpsmembers have completed over the past two years that help tell the story of African-Americans' legacy.

HOPE Crew at African House

photo by: Jamie Orillon

African House—Natchitoches, Louisiana

In Louisiana, partnering with the Texas Conservation Corps, HOPE Crew repaired the African House. This site is part of Melrose Plantation, a Creole site in Natchitoches, Louisiana. With the help of timber framing experts, six corpsmembers rehabilitated the African House’s roof, prepping and installing fresh Louisiana cypress timber. The plantation was first established by Louis Metoyer, a freed slave, in 1796. Now, African House is one of the Trust’s National Treasures.

Jefferson-Chalmers District—Detroit, Michigan

Detroit’s Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood once served as a haven for African-Americans and immigrants. The neighborhood even housed Vanity Ballroom, which hosted both the legendary Duke Ellington and local acts. After decades of declining population and loss of manufacturing jobs, many properties in the neighborhood were deteriorating or vacant. In 2016, HOPE Crew, in partnership with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, worked with professional craftspeople to repair five building' exteriors in the historic neighborhood. Jefferson-Chalmers is one of the Trust's National Treasures.

photo by: Duncan Kendall

Hinchliffe Stadium—Paterson, New Jersey

In Paterson, generations of enthusiasts repaired a historic New Jersey stadium. First built in 1931, the landmark 10,000-seat municipal stadium is one of the last surviving Negro League baseball stadiums from the Jim Crow era. The stadium served as the home field for the New York Black Yankees and the Newark Eagles and started off the careers of Hall of Fame-inductees like Larry Doby and Josh Gibson. In April 2014, a team of 700 volunteers from HOPE Crew, Youth Corps, and other affiliations joined together to repaint decades of vandalized and deteriorated walls at historic Hinchliffe Stadium. The National Trust declared the stadium one of the 11 Most Endangered Places in 2010, and it is now one of our National Treasures.

HOPE Crew at Raleigh National Cemetery

photo by: Nancy Pierce

Raleigh National Cemetery—Raleigh, North Carolina

Created as a burial ground for fallen Union soldiers in 1865, Raleigh National Cemetery houses thousands of veterans and their families in the heart North Carolina’s capital. The cemetery’s brick wall has stood since 1875, and decades of neglect left miles of brick and mortar in need of repair. In 2014, a HOPE Crew project, partnering with the Northwest Piedmont Service Corps, repaired 40,000 bricks and restored 114 panel sections. Volunteers were aided by the crew of preservationists who started the project four years prior.

HOPE Crew works to rehabilitate the Petersburg National Battlefield in Virignia

photo by: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Petersburg National Battlefield—Prince George County, Virginia

For 10 months of the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant laid siege on Petersburg, causing General Robert E. Lee’s Northern Virginia Army to collapse; cutting Petersburg’s supply lines to trigger the fall of Richmond; and, ultimately, forcing Lee to surrender. Between 9,000 and 16,000 U.S. Colored Troops served in the Union Army during the Petersburg Campaign. At Petersburg National Battlefield, HOPE Crew, partnering with the Citizens Conservation Corps, worked to preserve the site’s historic Civil War fortifications by replanting grass on-site and conducting routine preventative maintenance.

HOPE Crew in Atlanta

photo by: Virginie Kippelen

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site—Atlanta, Georgia

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site includes the activist’s boyhood home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the shotgun homes, and other related properties. In 2014 and 2016, partnering with Greening Youth Foundation, corpsmembers repaired and repainted the exteriors of two shotgun homes from 1909 and five buildings along Dr. King’s birth home block. Experts trained corpsmembers on preservation trade skills, helping them restore some of Atlanta’s most treasured historic sites. In 2016, Deputy Secretary Michael Connor of the Department of the Interior joined the crew to paint house exteriors at the site.

Chalmette National Cemetery Volunteers

photo by: A. J. Sisco

Chalmette National Cemetery—Chalmette, Louisiana

Managed by the National Park Service, the Chalmette National Cemetery was the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Since 1864, the Cemetery has served as the final resting place for soldiers from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam War. The cemetery houses over 14,000 headstones, including those of Louisiana Union soldiers and the United States Colored troops, who fought in the Civil War. In a two-year effort, over 1,400 HOPE Crew volunteers documented, realigned, and restored headstones in the cemetery, gaining preservation skills as they helped connect New Orleans, local preservationists, and the National Park Service. Chalmette National Cemetery sits outside New Orleans as a unit of the Jean Laffite National Park and Preserve.

Tell Us Your Story

African-American history has too often been a neglected chapter in our American story. Let’s change that. Tell us what African-American historic places have made an impact on American history— and how your family history has helped shaped you—using #savingplaces.

Join the movement to save and sustain historic African American places. The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will help every American see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story and national cultural landscape.

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