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Preserving the physical landscape of Black history.

Black history matters. Into America looks at the multi-million-dollar push to save the memorials key to Black culture.

About this episode:

When Brent Leggs started as a preservationist with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2005, his first big project was to restore Joe Frazier’s Gym in Philadelphia. The late boxing champion’s former building was being turned into a discount furniture outlet. Brent and his colleagues knew the space had the power to tell a story of Black achievement and history, so they worked to restore he gym as a symbol of community pride.

Brent is now the Executive Director of the Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The Fund was launched in 2017 with the goal of preserving places key to Black life. These are the places that tell a fuller story of America, and Brent says that saving them can ensure that Black societal contributions are more fully understood. So far, the Fund has awarded grants to 65 historic locations and invested more than $4.3 million dollars to help preserve places like Nina Simone’s childhood home in North Carolina, Madame CJ Walker’s Villa Lewaro in New York, and Vernon AME church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Earlier this summer, they received a $20 million dollar donation from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. So, Brent and his colleagues now have even more support to pursue what he describes as the “quiet power of preservation.”

Brent talks with Trymaine Lee about how he fell in love with this work, and he takes us on a journey into a few of his favorite projects.

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Find the transcript here.

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