Celebrating Black History Month
Councilmember Yvette Simpson and the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC) will utilize the month of February, also known as Black History Month, to educate the public and celebrate local Black leaders. On Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at Cincinnati City Hall, Room 115 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM, we will be hosting a Local Legends Lunch & Learn with Carl Westmoreland. The community is invited to attend this FREE event. Please bring your lunch as we converse with a local Black living legends.
Immediately following the discussion, the honoree will be presented with a Proclamation from the City in City Council Chambers.
Carl. B. Westmoreland
For the last four decades, Carl B. Westmoreland has been a leader in urban revitalization and preservation, from the grassroots community level to national and international arenas. In a 1971 newspaper article, he was quoted as saying “I believe in positive fighting within the system,” and this philosophy and dedication to improving communities and education through the preservation of history has led him to make a significant impact on every project he has been involved in since the 1960s. Furthermore, not only has he directly influenced communities himself, he has also served as a pioneer for the larger preservation movement, especially African-American historic preservation.
Westmoreland has lived the last 40 years of his life in Cincinnati, a city he has changed in many ways since he first moved here. In the 1960’s, he focused his attention on the primarily African-American Mount Auburn community, believing that homeownership and engagement were the keys to making the community a better place. In 1967, he and some neighbors formed the Mount Auburn Good Housing Foundation with 7,000 dollars in seed money from a wealthy Cincinnatian. The Foundation began by renovating buildings they believed were most damaging to the community, and quickly became a multimillion dollar operation involved in the renovation of over 2000 homes and businesses and providing technical assistance to other nonprofit housing groups in Cincinnati and nationwide.
Westmoreland’s simultaneous interest in preservation as a part of renovation in the neighborhood garnered him much attention, and in the mid ‘70s he became the first African-American Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This leadership in preservation led him to be involved in a number of groundbreaking events on a national level, including the Savannah Neighborhood Action Conference: Tenants and Landlords, which brought together preservationists from all over the country to explore alternatives to deterioration and displacement in inner city neighborhoods. This type of work eventually brought him a nomination in 1979 for the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Historic Preservation.
His association with the National Trust also gave him international prominence, leading him to travel the world working in diverse countries on preservation issues, even serving at one point as part of a six-person delegation to the People’s Republic of China. Throughout these activities, Westmoreland never lost his dedication to his hometown and he continued his efforts in Cincinnati neighborhoods, heading organizations small and large from Madisonville Housing Services to the Cincinnati Housing Service to the Ohio Preservation Alliance.
In 1993, Westmoreland received the Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award from the National Trust. They honored him, among other things, for his dedication to both revitalizing and preserving inner city neighborhoods and fostering awareness of urban issues, poverty, and race relations, subjects he examined and re-examined throughout his career. It was Westmoreland’s understanding of these issues and his interest in African-American history that spurred him to his next big project – the creation of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Westmoreland became deeply involved in the founding and development of the Center, which opened its doors in 2004 and has since become a major draw for visitors in Cincinnati. He serves as senior advisor at the Center and curator for its main exhibit, the Slave Pen. The Slave Pen, found in a barn in the small town of Germantown, Kentucky, came to Westmoreland’s attention in 1998. He immediately felt a connection and spent four years researching its history and the history and lifestyle of the surrounding community,12 miles west of Maysville, Kentucky, before dismantling the Pen and reassembling it at the Center. Westmoreland’s time and effort paid off in a deep understanding of the complex history of the internal slave trade, which is now interpreted through the Center for over 450,000 visitors a year who can walk through the jail and experience first-hand the emotions that four wood walls can conjure up and learn about the struggles embedded in this country’s history.
Today, Westmoreland remains a large presence at the Center and continues to research the history of African-Americans in the United States. His vast experience with complicated issues of neighborhood politics, race relations, preservation and revitalization makes him one of the most valuable resources and leaders in historic preservation in the country, and he continues to inspire young preservationists of all races to this day.