August 28, 2013

Five Endangered Civil Rights Sites: Commemorating the March On Washington

  • By: National Trust for Historic Preservation

The March on Washington in 1963. Credit: American Jewish Historical Society.

Today, August 28, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream" speech. In commemoration, last week we shared five preserved sites of the Civil Rights movement. Today -- on the March's actual anniversary -- we share five equally important sites that are currently endangered.

1. Paul Robeson House, Philadelphia, Penn.

The Paul Robeson House in West Philadelphia is the last home of Paul Robeson, the legendary African-American scholar, athlete, actor, singer, and human rights activist. Mr. Robeson was renowned for his rich baritone voice, superb acting, and passionate zeal for racial justice. Today, the Robeson House produces, presents, and promotes traveling lectures, concerts, and exhibits. The Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission and the White House officially recognized the museum as a national historic preservation site. The West Philadelphia Culture Alliance is currently fundraising to restore and endow the Robeson House.

The Paul Robeson House, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Credit: ekem, Wikimedia Commons.
The Paul Robeson House in West Philadelphia, Penn.

2. Malcolm X House, Boston, Mass.

Built in 1874, the Malcolm X – Ella Little-Collins House is a modest structure and the last known surviving boyhood home of Malcolm X. He shared the house with his half sister, Ella Little-Collins, whose son is the current owner. Largely vacant for over 30 years, plans are in development to rehabilitate and reuse the deteriorating property. In partnership with Historic Boston, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is working to preserve Malcolm X’s legacy by transforming the house into living quarters for graduate students who are studying African-American history, social justice, or civil rights. Learn more about this National Treasure campaign.

Malcolm X House. Credit: Steve Dunwell.
The Malcolm X - Ella Little-Collins house in Boston, Mass.

3. Medgar Evers Home, Jackson, Miss.

Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers lived with his family in a house at 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive in Jackson, Mississippi. The house was constructed for the Evers family in 1957, and it was in the driveway of this house that on June 12, 1963 Evers was assassinated after returning from an NAACP meeting. Legislation to designate the house as a unit of the National Park Service has been introduced, but has thus far not made it out of committee. Find more information on how to visit the home today.

Medgar Evers House, Jackson, Mississippi. Credit: Toml1959, Flickr.
Medgar Evers' house in Jackson, Miss.

4. Emmett Till sites, Money, Miss.

Fourteen-year-old Chicago resident Emmett Till was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi in the summer of 1955 when he was brutally killed, supposedly for whistling at a white woman who worked at a local market called Bryant’s Grocery. Three sites in the local area help tell the story of Till’s tragic death: Bryant’s Grocery, a local funeral parlor where Till’s body was kept before being transported back to Chicago, and the Tallahatchie Courthouse, where Till’s murderers were found innocent despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt. Bryant’s Grocery, pictured below in its current state, is now the first stop on the Mississippi Freedom Trail.

Bryant’s Grocery, the store Emmett Till visited. Credit: whispertome, Wikimedia Commons.
Bryant's Grocery, Money, Miss.

5. Historically Black Colleges and Universities

For more than 175 years, Historically Black Colleges & Universities (also known as HBCUs) have been providing higher education to minority students all over the country. Many of the buildings on HBCU campuses have stood for more than a century. During the Civil Rights movement, campuses like West Virginia State University were meeting places for students and the communities to come together and lead peaceful rallies. Pillerman and Gore Residence Halls at WVSU, built in the early 1900s, are currently facing demolition. Both sites are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and local preservation groups are urging the county to reconsider the demolition. Read more about HBCUs' role in the Civil Rights movement and how these structures are endangered today.

130821_blog_photo_march_wvsu_betsyxallen flickr
West Virginia State University campus.

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