Profiles in Preservation

The deForest Brothers

As it first appeared on the Black in Historic Preservation Instagram on 18 Feb 2021:

Hi, this is Kennedy, co-Founder of Black in Historic Preservation. Inspiration for this week's profile comes from a UVA School of Architecture talk @profwiley, gave on Oct. 26, 2020, "On Standards and Integrity." Last night, I watched the recording, and afterward, I was up until midnight reading about the work of the deForest Brothers, who Dr. Wiley mentioned in her talk.

This afternoon, I felt compelled to make a post in honor of their preservation legacy that began 51 years ago. I did not find many articles about the preservation work of the deForests or mention of their preservation advocacy in the histories of landmarks they established, like the Carter G. Woodson House. However, two online resources standout:

:: DC Preservation League's @dcpresleague "Civil Rights Tour: Education - Afro-American Institute": - what a gem!

:: "An Interview with Robert M. Utley on the History of Historic Preservation in the National Park Service - 1947 - 1980". Do read it, perhaps for perspective on what it was like for two Black men who were advocating for the inclusion of Black landmarks in the 1970s. Mr. Utley, the former Chief Historian of the National Park System, at the time of the interview stated, "I don't remember who was making the presentations in those times, but they didn't have the finesse and the strength to stand up to Bob deForest, because he was a very strong character, and so you wound up with substandard landmarks." The interview gave me some food for thought for another initiative that has my attention @beyond.integrity

Vincent & Robert deForest ("the deForest Brothers"), born in Cleveland, OH, established the Afro-American Institute for Historic Preservation and Community Development (ABC) in 1970. At the time, Vincent (1936 - ) was an architect & Robert (1935 - 2007) was a community organizer.

Early inspiration for ABC: to include historic sites associated with African American heritage in the US Bicentennial 200th anniversary celebration. This work continued the work of Black historians and scholars who met with the National Park Service (NPS) as early as 1872 advocating for the inclusion of these sites in the NPS system.

From 1971 - 1989, ABC's contract work with NPS, national studies, resulted in the National Historic Landmark designation of 61 sites in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Included in this list was the first to honor an African American woman, Maggie Lena Walker in Richmond, VA - the first African American woman to found a bank.

The deForest Brothers' legacy lives on in the work of two preservationists in the Black Preservationists Directory:

:: Dr. Wiley has continued the legacy of the deForest's work of landmarking the Carter G. Woodson House in DC. Learn more about it in the talk I mentioned, "On Standards and Integrity"

:: Nakita Reed AIA, BiHP Advisor, an Associate with Quinn Evans, developed a database of historic DC sites called the "African American Civil Rights in the 20th C. in Washington DC" for the National Register Civil Rights Multiple Property Document @tangibleremnants

- K. Kennedy Whiters (kW), @iamkennedyw

Cite this Article in APA Format:

Whiters, K. (2021, February 18) Profiles in Preservation: The deForest Brothers. Retrieved from <Insert Date Retrieved>.


Briscoe, Kevin Michael. The Zenger, "Cemetery Will Survive as 'Last Black Piece' of Gentrified D.C. Despite Real Estate Arms Race: Founded in 1809, a burial ground served all Georgetowners until a 'whites only' graveyard was established 40 years," (site visited 18Feb2021)

Brown, Fred. The Washington Post, "Preserving America's Black Historic Landmarks," (site visited 18Feb2021).

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, (site visited 18Feb2021)

Civil Rights Tour: Education - Afro-American Institute, (site visited 18Feb2021)

Fandos, Nicholas. The New York Times, "At 2 Georgetown Cemeteries, History in Black and White," (site visited 18Feb2021)

H.R. 1179 African -American Burial Grounds Network Act 116th Congress (2019-2020), (site visited 19Feb2021)

Sellars, Richard W. and Webb, Melody, "An Interview with Robert M. Utley on the History of Historic Preservation in the National Park Service - 1947-1980," (site visited 17Feb2021)

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