Shining a light on undertold stories

For decades, PEC has collaborated with communities across the Piedmont to preserve and restore their historic resources. That effort has ranged from helping map historic schools, churches, and other special places to developing applications for eligibility and listing on the Register of Historic Places. At the regional scale, PEC is a founding partner and supporter of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, which sponsored the enactment by Congress of The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.

In recent years, we’ve expanded our collaborative work with a focus on shining a light on undertold stories of people and communities of color. In the Southwest Mountains area of northeast Albemarle County, for example, PEC has been working with researchers, community groups and landowners to document the history and associated historic resources of African American communities. This effort could inform future updates to the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District nomination or lead to the creation of independent rural historic districts that focus on African American communities, many of which still exist today.

Similarly, PEC has expanded our inventory work for the Rapidan River-Clark Mountain Rural Historic District to include communities of formerly enslaved families in Culpeper and Orange Counties. PEC is looking for all opportunities to focus on undertold stories, particularly those of African American communities.

Older Black men point at a map.
PEC hosted a stakeholder meeting about the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District in October. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

PEC has also been advocating for more equity in Virginia’s historic preservation efforts. 2022 marked a turning point for these efforts, with the establishment of the Virginia Black, Indigenous and People of Color Historic Preservation Fund. PEC, Preservation Virginia, and the Virginia Conservation Network led advocacy for this new state fund, which will help preserve and interpret historic structures, cultural landscapes and archeological sites important to underrepresented communities. With $5 million allocated for its first year, and administered by the state Department of Historic Resources, the BIPOC Historic Preservation Fund will launch its first grant round this spring