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Understanding Civil Rights Heritage
The Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites presents a virtual discussion with leaders of the field: Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund; Amy Freitag, executive director of The J.M. Kaplan Fund; and Kwesi Daniels, department head and assistant professor at the Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science at Tuskegee University. The discussion will be moderated by Randall Mason, faculty director of the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites.
The current moment of reckoning and reflection on race and heritage presents an opportunity. As the Center embarks on a program of research, teaching, fieldwork and convening, these preservation leaders draw on their experience to explore the urgent work ahead. Panelists will describe their work and engage in a roundtable discussion of the needs, priorities, and opportunities for the Center.
Brent Leggs, Executive Director, African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund
Brent Leggs is the executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The largest preservation campaign ever undertaken on behalf of African American history, the Action Fund has sparked a movement dedicated to telling the truth about our past, and cultivating hope for the future. As Executive Director, Brent leads a growing community of activists, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders who believe that when we preserve African American cultural sites, we create spaces where stories of Black activism, achievement and resilience can enrich our understanding of the American story, inspire us to explore our potential, and invite us to connect with each other.
A Harvard University Loeb Fellow and 2018 recipient of the Robert G. Stanton National Preservation Award, over the past decade, Brent has 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, Alabama; Nina Simone’s birthplace in Tryon, North Carolina; John and Alice Coltrane’s home in Huntington, New York; and more. Brent has taught or teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, University of Maryland, Harvard University, and Boston Architectural College.
Amy Freitag, Executive Director, The J.M. Kaplan Fund
Amy L. Freitag is the executive director of The J.M. Kaplan Fund, a private family foundation based in New York City that supports social justice and the conservation of the natural and built environment. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), an organization working to improve green space in New York City’s highest need communities and led the private effort to plant one million new trees (MillionTreesNYC). Prior to her work at NYRP, Freitag served as the U.S. Program Director for the World Monuments Fund. Her professional background also includes serving as Deputy Commissioner for Capital Projects in the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as well as several titles in Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Freitag recently served on the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, Markers for New York City and currently sits on the boards of Philanthropy New York, the New York Preservation Archive Project, and the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation. She lectures nationally on the history of women in conservation and is researching a book on the founding of the Garden Club of America. She holds an A.B. from Smith College and M.L.A. and a M.S. in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.
Kwesi Daniels, Department Head, Assistant Professor Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science at Tuskegee University
Kwesi Daniels is the head of the Architecture Department at Tuskegee University. His professional experience ranges across various disciplines, including historic preservation, architecture, sustainability management, and urban geography. Over his 20-year career, he has worked for architecture firms and government agencies on public and private sector building projects around the country. He has also played an active role in the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), the Alabama Black Heritage Council, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. However, his greatest honor has been to teaching students at Tuskegee, Temple, NYU, and Columbia University in the City of New York, in addition to lecturing nationally.
In 2018, he began developing a historic preservation program at Tuskegee University, which has resulted in the documentation of civil rights sites in Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee, Ala. Professor Daniels earned a BArch and MArch in architecture from Tuskegee University and the University of Illinois at Chicago and a MS in sustainability management from Columbia University. In 2020 he earned a Ph.D. in urban geography from Temple University. His doctoral research focused on studentification and its social impact on West Philadelphia neighborhoods. In his spare time, he enjoys playing billiards, cane twirlin’ and spending time with his family.
Randall Mason, Faculty Director of the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites
Randall Mason is Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design, Senior Fellow at PennPraxis, and former Chair of its Graduate Program in Historic Preservation. His scholarly and professional work addresses conservation, planning, and public space issues, working with organizations including the Getty Conservation Institute, William Penn Foundation, City of Philadelphia, National Park Service, and the government of Rwanda. He is educated in geography, history and urban planning, with a PhD from Columbia University. As of this fall, he is founding Faculty Director of the WSOD’s Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites.
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