Breaking through the Margins: Pushing Sociopolitical Boundaries Through Historic Preservation
Hopkins, Portia Dene
Williams- Forson, Psyche
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“Breaking through the Margins: Pushing Sociopolitical Boundaries Through Historic Preservation” explores the ways in which contemporary grassroots organizations are adapting historic preservation methods to protect African American heritage in communities that are on the brink of erasure. This project emerges from an eighteen-month longitudinal study of three African American preservation organizations—one in College Park, Maryland and two in Houston, Texas—where gentrification or suburban sprawl has all but decimated the physical landscape of their communities. Grassroots preservationists in Lakeland (College Park, Maryland), St. John Baptist Church (Missouri City, Texas), and Freedmen’s Town (Houston, Texas) are involved in pushing back against preservation practices that do not, or tend not, to take into consideration the narratives of African American communities. I argue, these organizations practice a form of preservation that provides immediate and lasting effects for communities hovering at the margins. This dissertation seeks to outline some of the major methodological approaches taken by Lakeland, St. John, and Freedmen’s Town. The preservation efforts put forth by the grassroots organizations in these communities faithfully work to remind us that history without preservation is lost. In taking on the critical work of pursuing social justice, these grassroots organizations are breaking through the margins of society using historic preservation as their medium.