On March 4th Amber gave an evening talk sponsored by the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation and the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites at the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design. Her presentation re-examined the legacy and impact of the work of the Afro-American Bicentennial Corporation (ABC) in Washington, DC. It illustrated how the ABC set the precedent for a more nuanced understanding of the American past, expanding the National Park Service’s inclusion of Black historic landmarks twenty-fold. The ABC’s mission was to increase participation of African Americans in the 1976 Bicentennial, to direct projects that highlighted Black history, but most importantly, to be a “‘vehicle’ for improving the lives of Black Americans.” The organization worked to “continue the revolution” through the “process of decolonization, a movement toward self-realization and self-government by people determined not to be kept in a subject status.” Preservation was a tactic of curating a cultural heritage that hitherto was rendered invisible, but the aims of ABC were also a part of the larger freedom struggle for Black Americans. In this way, ABC was an outgrowth of both the advent of Home Rule in Washington, as well as the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Historians Charles H. Wesley and Mary F. Berry, Senator Edward Brooke and Representative Shirley Chisholm were a few of the power players on ABC’s advisory board. The talk covered the long-time collaboration between the organization and the National Park Service (NPS), which continued when the ABC re-organized as the Afro-American Institute for Historic Preservation and Community Development.
To view a recording of the talk, please visit the Weitzman School of Design YouTube.