The quiet power of preservation told by Brent Leggs during this morning's Paducah Chamber breakfast
The Power in Partnership breakfast sponsored by the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP Chapter and McCracken County Community Career Endowment featured former Paducah native Brent Leggs. His presentation on historical marker preservation of black heritage was incredible. The history behind the storyline is both remarkable and concerning. Remarkable in that the black community has such an incredible story to tell that still remains to be told. Concerning because it still remains to be told.
Opening remarks at today's breakfast were given by Paducah Chamber President and CEO Sandra Wilson. After a brief presentation on upcoming meetings, she introduced the 2021 Paducah Chamber Chair and President of WKCTC Dr. Anton Reese.
Dr. Reese discussed 'regular business' and then proceeded to 'speak from the heart'. He said that he approaches everyday promoting diversity, inclusiveness. and education for all. He said 25% of our Paducah community is black and he has two goals in mind as chamber chair. The first is to have more diverse businesses join the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce. The second is to form an advisory group of black and Hispanic representatives to help guide his tenure as chair of the Chamber.
Next, was the slide presentation from Leggs. Brent Leggs is the Executive Director of the African American Cultural heritage Action Fund for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He shares the story of activists, entrepreneurs, artists and civic leaders who advocate on behalf of African American historic places.
He's a Harvard University Loeb Fellow and author of "Preserving African American Historic sites by The Smithsonian Institute. " Leggs is also the 2018 recipient of the Robert G. Staton National Preservation Award.
During his presentation, Leggs discussed the "quiet power of preservation." He shared that he became interested in architectural history after having a casual conversation about it with a colleague. After which he enrolled in the school of architecture. Later, he would be asked to get involved in researching and recording black historical monuments.
This is where he uncovered the Rosenwald schools. Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee graduate and American educator and Julius Rosenwald, American businessman and philanthropist created a fund that built 5,000 Rosenwald schools. The schools were distributed in 15 states throughout the south. In Kentucky, 158 were built and 41 are standing today. One of the Rosenwald schools is located in Paducah on Poole Street named Woodland Schools.
Leggs shared other interesting and concerning facts such as of the 100,000 sites registered with the National Registry of Historic Places only 2% reflect the black experience in American history. He said 'the black community is fighting for recognition of their contributions to our nation.'
For more information on Leggs follow his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/brent.leggs
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