The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been at the forefront of conserving landmarks throughout the country that are embedded in the fabric of Black history. In an effort to diversify the industry and develop career pathways for the next generation of aspiring preservationists, the organization created a program that gives young African Americans first-hand experience with the restoration of landmarks.
In 2014 the organization launched an initiative called the Hands-on Preservation Experience Crew (HOPE Crew) as an avenue to provide youth with training sessions that covered masonry repair, window restoration, and other skills. This year, with a grant from the Fund II Foundation, the National Trust is putting the focus on exposing Black youth to preservation trades. Through the program—which is being led by the organization’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund—participants will have hands-on experience with rebuilding structures that are tied to Black achievement and activism.
The first cohort of Black students is currently enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program at North Carolina’s Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center. One of their first projects will be the preservation of late songstress Nina Simone’s former North Carolina home. They will spend a few days re-painting and making repairs in the house. Other projects include the restoration of playwright August Wilson’s Pittsburgh home and a house in Long Island that belonged to John and Alice Coltrane.
“This Fund II support—the largest investment in HOPE Crew’s 5-year history—represents an important evolution in the National Trust’s commitment to telling stories that reflect the African American experience in this country,” Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Brent Leggs said in a statement. The leadership team at the Fund II Foundation says they are committed to ensuring that the achievements and contributions of Black pioneers don’t go unsung. “Our commitment to HOPE Crew supports two key pillars of the Foundation: to preserve the rich, cultural heritage of African Americans whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the world, and to introduce young people to occupations in STEM related fields,” said Linda Wilson, Executive Director, Fund II Foundation. “The projects celebrate iconic figures, instill community pride, and also provide the opportunity to educate about them and their achievements for generations to come.”
There have been several initiatives launched to increase diversity within the preservation industry. In 2018, the National Trust, the National Park Service and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation joined forces with Morgan State University for the creation of a program called Preservation in Practice which was designed to empower HBCU students to pursue careers in historic preservation.