“Grounds for Democracy” focuses on civil rights landscapes that tell stories of justice won and denied.
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The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has many flagship programs, but none has quite the resonance and public impact of Landslide. Since 2003, the campaign has brilliantly avoided compassion fatigue by connecting at-risk sites around a single idea or figure, a strategy that enrolls the public in the notion of cultural landscapes without lecturing. Threats to the selected landscapes and features can come through development, lack of visibility or awareness, or inappropriate usage, and making these places visible encourages the public to support and advocate for them.
This year, the campaign, titled Grounds for Democracy, is organized around civil rights. TCLF includes “sites associated with civil and human rights, women’s suffrage, the labor movement, and others.” Joining other historic and advocacy groups in highlighting the 50-year anniversary of 1968, TCLF asks the public to consider the ways landscapes absorb and reflect our imperfect and sometimes violent relationships with our most cherished values.
Landscape Architecture Magazine is the media partner for the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Landslide 2018: Grounds for Democracy. For a complete description of each theme and project, go to www.tclf.org.
It was only a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, an act that authorized the removal of approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes to remote, militarized camps in several states across the desert and mountain west. Although two-thirds of the people confined were U.S. citizens, they remained incarcerated for the duration of the war. Of the 10 confinement sites, only the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, a National Historic Landmark, has been significantly interpreted and preserved. Others, such as the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho, were dismantled and their land redistributed. Despite several years of federal support to preserve and document these sites, the current presidential administration is seeking to cut or eliminate funding, jeopardizing the preservation of this history.
Founded in a floodplain, and born from early days of the Emancipation, Princeville has never had an easy way forward. The first town incorporated by African Americans in the United States, Princeville, located in a low, flood-prone 230-acre site near the Tar River, has witnessed and cradled more than a century of African American life. A history of aggressions by white supremacists as well as the federal government has nearly erased Princeville from the map more than once, but the town and its people have persevered. Always precarious, rural life in this small town is facing more and more severe flood threats as climate change dramatically increases inland flooding. Without the resources to constantly rebuild and preserve the town’s cultural history, Princeville is threatened with erasure.
More than 4,000 public lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950 have been documented by the Equal Justice Initiative. Lynching was first and foremost an act of racial terror—not a misbegotten form of justice—intended to subjugate African American citizens into silence. It’s a political legacy that is clearly visible in those places today. Public lynchings were observed by large crowds, who were encouraged to gather and witness these acts. Despite this, or because of it, a collective “forgetting” about where and how these crimes were committed has been enshrined in the states where they occurred. Though most lynching sites remain unmarked and unknown, in Shelby County, the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis is documenting and bringing these stories to light. Its efforts to tell the stories of the victims and mark the places where they were tortured and killed need support to continue.
In an era when most disagreement around coal mining centers around mountaintop removal and other environmental impacts, it might be hard to remember that mine workers were once consumed with the battle to unionize and to secure basic constitutional and worker’s rights. In 1921, the Blair Mountain Battlefield was the site of the “largest armed uprising in American history since the Civil War,” when 10,000 workers clashed with the private army of the coal company in collusion with local law enforcement. The battle, which ended when federal troops were called in, was the culmination of the West Virginia Mine Wars, a decade-long conflict around securing basic human rights and safe working conditions, which were withheld as a condition of employment in the mines. The nearly 1,700-acre, steep, wooded site is abundant with landscape features and archaeological resources that have yet to be documented.
Sapelo Island is a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, one of several that dot the southeastern shoreline. It’s accessible only by boat or small plane, and that remoteness has helped the descendants of the Gullah Geechee to survive and preserve their culture and way of life. The Hog Hammock community traces its origins to the first enslaved people brought there from West Africa in the 1700s, and residents derive many of their cultural traditions and foodways from the synthesis of West African, Baptist, and Muslim practices and coastal ecology. Once free, the island’s inhabitants developed systems of collective ownership and community agriculture that sustained them for generations. Even as sea-level rise threatens, coastal development has boomed and pushed the community, now with just 50 permanent residents, to the brink of cultural extinction.
Sites that commemorate LGBTQ lives are sparse on the landscape, particularly outside of cities, and it is for this reason among others that preserving Druid Heights has become critical. The community, tucked near Muir Woods National Monument, was a significant incubator, sanctuary, and home to many counterculture and progressive luminaries, including the lesbian feminist poet Elsa Gidlow, the feminist lawyer and activist Catharine MacKinnon, the philosopher Alan Watts, and Ed Stiles, the inventor of the self-filtering hot tub. Although now owned by the National Park Service, with an aging community and deteriorating, idiosyncratic structures, Druid Heights’s importance as a site of free-thinking cultural significance will be lost.
Susan B. Anthony—a founding American feminist, activist for universal suffrage, and social reformer—lived in this unassuming house in rural New York State as a teenager from 1832 to 1839. It was during this period that she began to develop the ideas that, along with those of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, would result in the 19th Amendment, establishing women’s right to vote. Despite being owned by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the house and outbuildings have sat vacant and deteriorating for many years, in a limbo state, awaiting their next life as a museum or interpretive site.
Austin’s Lions Municipal Golf Course is recognized as one of the first municipal golf courses in the South to be desegregated, but its story also overlaps with concerns about what to do with golf course landscapes in an age of dwindling usage and escalating environmental issues. Located two miles from the state capitol, the 141-acre Lions is now in the midst of an expanding metropolitan area that is devouring land for housing. Once owned and run by the University of Texas system, the popular public golf course is now leased to the city, which is pursuing a mixed-use development on the site. In addition to being an important civil rights landmark, the Lions course is on the National Register of Historic Places and has attracted a fervent preservation effort that includes golfers, activists, religious leaders, and open-space advocates.
Who belongs in the hall of fame, and what does it mean to be a “Great American”? These are some of the questions prompted by this 1900 Beaux-Arts complex designed by Stanford White as the centerpiece of the University Heights campus of New York University. A 630-foot-long neoclassical colonnade displays 96 bronze busts of admired citizens (native-born or naturalized) who were nominated and selected by a committee of prominent figures. As a monument to American ideals as they were defined in the past, the hall of fame is a vivid document. Among the total of 102 figures nominated to the hall of fame, 11 are women, and only two are African American. There are no Latinos, Asian Americans, or Native Americans represented. Religious diversity is equally sparse—there are just three Jewish figures and no Roman Catholics. In 2017, the busts of two Civil War Confederate generals, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee, were removed, and an ongoing conversation about how to integrate the hall of fame into contemporary life is integrally linked to efforts to raise funds for its restoration.
Lincoln Memorial Park is both unique and heartbreakingly typical. As one of the oldest African American cemeteries in Dade County, Florida, it was the final resting place of many pioneering African Americans, who were segregated in every aspect of life as well as death. Its distinctive, aboveground burial structures in ceramic and stone reference traditions likely brought from the Bahamas. Buried within its confines are some of Miami’s most prominent African American citizens, including W. E. B. DuBois’s protégé William Sawyer; Sawyer’s daughter, the Florida state representative Gwen Sawyer Cherry; and H. E. S. Reeves, the founder of the Miami Times. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 30,000 citizens are buried there, but it is difficult to find or pay respects to those interred. Like many other African American cemeteries across the country, Lincoln Memorial Park has fallen into decay and disrepair, a function of historic neglect by local governments and changing demographics as families move away. Recently, the Coral Gables Museum has taken on the cemetery as a project and begun the painstaking research to identify graves and organize cleanups.