Monday, February 11, 2008

Preserving Historic Black Neighborhoods

The AP has recently written in article about the historic preservation of subdivisions that were built for blacks. This issue has often been somewhat of a touchy issue because the argument is about preserving the cultural heritage of a neighborhood instead of the aesthetic character or the significant age of the site. Factors that work against these sites in historic preservation is that some of the neighborhoods have lost their cultural significance as the black population has dwindled out or was displaced and these neighborhoods are often times not as old as the typical historic neighborhoods already in the inventory of historic places.

Many historic, culturally rich black neighborhoods have already succumbed to development and gentrification while others are still fighting to keep their cultural identity. Examples of historically black neighborhoods that have completely lost their identity can be seen in Philadelphia in the Society Hill neighborhood which was the basis of W.E.B. Dubois's ground breaking anthropology, The Philadelphia Negro. Other neighborhoods that are struggling to maintain their identities include the iconic black neighborhoods of Compton, CA, Harlem in New York City and the Atlanta neighborhood of Dr. King which is already listed in the register of historic places.

Here's an excerpt of the article:

"Some of the early black homeowner neighborhoods around the country are trying to win historic recognition before their place in the history of homeownership fades. The residents want to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which would make them eligible for federal tax credits or grants for historic preservation. ... Persuading black property owners to seek the designation can sometimes be difficult because some equate preservation with gentrification or higher taxes."

For the entire article, click here.

So what are your thoughts on preserving neighborhoods based on their cultural identity and history?

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