Brent Leggs: How Can Seeing Black History As American History Begin To Make Amends?

By NPR/TED STAFF NPR

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Making Amends

How can we make amends for the atrocities of slavery and segregation? Historian and preservationist Brent Leggs discusses one step in confronting the past: preserving African American historic sites.

About Brent Leggs

Brent Leggs is the executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Envisioned as a social movement for justice, equity, and reconciliation, the Action Fund is promoting the role of cultural preservation in telling the nation’s full history, while also empowering activists, entrepreneurs, artists, and civic leaders to advocate on behalf of African American historic places.

A Harvard University Loeb Fellow and author of Preserving African American Historic Places, Brent is a national leader in the U.S. preservation movement. His passion for elevating the significance of black culture in American history is visible through his work, which elevates the remarkable stories and places that evoke centuries of black activism, achievement, and community.

Over the past decade, he has developed the Northeast African American Historic Places Outreach Program, and its theme, the Business of Preservation, to build a regional movement of preservation leaders saving important landmarks in African American history. As the project manager for several National Treasure campaigns across the country, he led efforts to create the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument in Alabama, which President Barack Obama designated in January 2017. Other campaign successes include the perpetual protection of cultural monuments like Villa Lewaro, the estate of Madam C. J. Walker in Irvington, New York; Joe Frazier’s Gym in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey; A. G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham; Nina Simone’s birthplace in Tryon, North Carolina; and John and Alice Coltrane’s home in Huntington, New York.

Brent has taught at Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Boston Architectural College, and he is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Maryland’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.

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