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Preserving Historic Places

Updated: Jul 4, 2022

Meet Brent Leggs; he probably has the best job in the world. He’s the current Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The title sounds a bit long, but the designation is worth every word. I met Brent years ago at James Madison’s Montpellier. That earlier opportunity was ideal for a few portraits of Brent, which were later used on the award-winning exhibit The Mere Distinction of Colour, yes, with the old English spelling, which my word processor just refused to recognize.

Back then, we did not get a chance to talk much, but yesterday we agreed to meet in the District (elegant Virginian mode to refer to the Nation’s capital), and we did. During our encounter in DC, we filmed a presentation for Chesterwood, home-studio, and gardens of Daniel Chester French. After wrapping that initial shoot, we headed for Union Station, where Brent could catch a train for New York. On the way, we talked some more at leisure, always in the spirit of documenting a story. What transpired from that conversation was his enthusiasm and commitment to restoring Nina Simone’s birthplace in North Carolina and Langston Hughes’s home in Harlem.

According to the Smithsonian, Brent Leggs is the author of a “seminal publication on preserving African American historic sites.” Brent is a national leader in the U.S. preservation movement and the 2018 recipient of the Robert G. Stanton National Preservation Award. His passion for elevating the significance of black culture in American history is visible through his work, which promotes the remarkable stories and places that evoke centuries of black activism, achievement, and community.

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