This piece is Rosaura Ramo’s last blog post for our Institutional Sustainability blog. She is currently studying Architecture and Art at the University of Minnesota, where she will be a junior this year. This post is inspired by a lecture from one of her fall classes, Introduction to Heritage Preservation, taught by Greg Donofrio. Thanks and good luck to our great summer intern!
Heritage preservation is a way in which way we preserve the past. While the term is mostly defined as preserving or restoring buildings and monuments of the past, the most important part is keeping that moment in history alive. To remember why we preserved such object or building gives the community understanding of its significance in history. It also gives future generations a sense of of their own history and connection to their community.
On September 5th 2012, while many students were returning to their classes, Professor Donofrio at the University of Minnesota, who is teaching an introductory course on heritage preservation, spoke of a recent phone call he received. “A woman called and wanted to register her current home on the National Registry of Historic Places,” he said. Yet to be considered for the National Registry Professor Donofrio needed more information on the house and the reason why the woman thought that it should be recognized. The home turned out to be the home of Albert Lee from the mid-1900s.
Albert Lee was a United States Veteran and worked for the U.S. Postal Service. After returning back to the United States from war, he decided that he wanted to purchase a beautiful and affordable home. As an African American, most in the mid-1900s believed that he should stay in his own community. Yet, Albert Lee believed that he had the right to live anywhere he chose, even if it was a prominently a white neighborhood.
Soon after the Lee family moved in, trouble started. Riots started in front of their home, paint was throw at the property, and meetings were held to remove the family from the neighborhood. “There was so many people that food trucks would stop in the neighborhood to sell to those rioting,” described Professor Donofrio. Things escalated until Leana O. Smith, the first African American female lawyer in Minnesota stepped in. As a result, the Lee family kept the home and defended their rights.
While this is only one example, many pieces of history are slipping through the cracks and are being forgotten. The issue begins with history that is not discussed because it isn’t seen as mainstream, or history that is often written with a caucasian male perspective. Yet the history of Minnesota, as well as the United States, features many perspectives from different cultures and voices. The African American community has this example of preserving the past, but other communities need to be recognized as well so that the future generations may have a connection to their own community.
Professor Donofrio is starting a project for his students to continue to find places, such as the Lee house, throughout the semester.
Donofrio, Gregory. “Heritage Preservation Lecture 1.” University of Minnesota. Rapson Hall, Minneapolis. 5 Sept. 2012. Lecture.