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In Their Own Words: Advocates for Diversity in Preservation Share their Thoughts
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In 1971, Carl Westmoreland, a young African-American leader in urban revitalization was the plenary speaker at the National Preservation Conference. Westmoreland had been instrumental in bringing back the primarily African-American neighborhood of Mount Auburn, using preservation to bring new life and energy to this faltering Cincinnati neighborhood. He spoke passionately about historic preservation and what a difference it could make for communities—all communities.

Westmoreland was soon invited to serve on the National Trust’s board of trustees, becoming the first African-American on the board. Thus began a long journey by the Trust and its preservation partners to change the face of preservation. And not just the faces of preservation—that is, bringing in more people of color and people representing diverse backgrounds—but the very definition of what is historic—moving past the grand homes of the wealthy and influential or buildings designed by well-known architects.

When organizations embark on such a journey, it generally involves committees and task forces, followed by recommendations and strategies, which lead to actual initiatives and programs. Efforts to broaden the reach of preservation at the National Trust were no different. Much of the diversity work of the National Trust has been guided by two entities in particular. In 1994 the National Trust board of trustees established the Committee on Cultural Diversity to make recommendations to increase diversity in the organized preservation movement. Then in 2001, the board of trustees approved the formation of a Diversity Council charged with enhancing and expanding the diversity of staff, board members, volunteers, and constituents, as well as the programmatic diversity in the preservation movement. These committees have included advisors, trustees, partners, Main Street, and Historic Sites Councils and at-large members.

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A student with YouthBuild scrapes paint on the column bases of the John Coltrane House in Philadelphia.

Photo Melissa Jest

We asked a few of the individuals who had been involved in these efforts to share their thoughts about past initiatives and what they envision for the future.

Tony Goldman, the visionary developer of historic properties, was one of the original members of the Diversity Council. Goldman died in 2012, but his widow, Janet Goldman, shared her thoughts and remembrances of Tony’s enthusiasm about participating on the committee. She says, “Tony’s drive was to discover, recover and bring into the light discarded or forgotten properties and people who had value. He was so genuinely motivated at the concept of forming a diversity council. All his life he saw people and places in technicolor. I remember his coming home and passionately talking about the opportunity to change the color and flavor of the old guard at the Trust and bring in people with new blood and diverse ideas and a new complexion to the organization.”

Mtamanika Youngblood, president and CEO of Sustainable Neighborhood Development Strategies in Atlanta, Ga., chaired the Diversity Council in 2002. When asked about what prompted the formation of the council, Youngblood notes that it was clear that many historic neighborhoods, most of them urban, were occupied by people of color. She continues, “There was also the recognition that, in addition to people of color, there were many preservationists in the gay community that we needed to be intentional about reaching out to and including in all aspects of the work of National Trust. At the same time, the National Trust’s membership was declining, and we recognized that there was the opportunity to boost membership within the aforementioned communities.”

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Mike Amadeo, is a musician and owner of Casa Amadeo, the oldest continuously-run Latin music store in the South Bronx, located in the National Register-listed Manhasset apartment building.

Photo: Tanya Bowers

Another member who eventually chaired the Diversity Council, Spencer Crew, the Robinson Professor of American, African-American and Public History at George Mason University, commented that the Trust realized it would be timely to make some internal changes. He says, “[The Trust] also needed to look at its own operation to insure that its staff and board presented a picture of diversity as well. The task of the committee was to look at both internal and external...

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