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Historian and Preservationist Brent Leggs guides host Manoush Zomorodi through the A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama. The motel stood at the center of several significant chapters of the Civil Rights movement. 
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Credit: Manoush Zomorodi / NPR

Brent Leggs: How Can Seeing Black History As American History Begin To Make Amends?

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Black History ... And The Future

How can we make amends for the atrocities of slavery and segregation? Historian and preservationist Brent Leggs discusses one step in confronting the past: preserving African American historic sites. A version of this segment was originally heard in the episode Making Amends.

About Brent Leggs

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.

Over the past decade, Leggs has developed the Northeast African American Historic Places Outreach Program to build a regional movement of preservation leaders saving important landmarks in African American history. As the project manager for several National Treasure campaigns across the country, he 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 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; Nina Simone's birthplace in Tryon, North Carolina; John and Alice Coltrane's home in Huntington, New York; and more.

Leggs is also a Harvard University Loeb Fellow, and author of Preserving African American Historic Places. He is the 2018 recipient of the Robert G. Stanton National Preservation Award. He has taught at Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Boston Architectural College, and he is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Maryland's Graduate Program in Historic Preservation. [Copyright 2021 NPR]