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Amber N. Wiley

“‘The Revolution Continues’: The 1976 Bicentennial and the Black Heritage Movement”

Amber N. Wiley.

Mellon Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies

Wiley’s research examines the legacy and impact of the Afro-American Bicentennial Corporation (ABC), illustrating how the ABC set the precedent for a more nuanced understanding of the American past by expanding the National Park Service’s inclusion of Black historic landmarks twentyfold. The organization’s mission was to increase participation of African Americans in the 1976 Bicentennial and to direct projects that highlighted Black history, but most importantly to be a “‘vehicle’ for improving the lives of Black Americans.” The group worked to “continue the revolution” through the “process of decolonization, a movement toward self-realization and self-government by people determined not to be kept in a subject status.” Wiley’s manuscript will tell the story of the broadening of historic preservation field in the Bicentennial area, and document the history and condition of the landmarks nominated by ABC. Preservation was a tactic for curating a cultural heritage that hitherto was rendered invisible, but the aims of ABC were also a part of the larger freedom struggle for Black Americans. Her work will connect this important past with the continuing effort to identify, contextualize, and save Black landmarks within current preservation practice.

Amber N. Wiley is an assistant professor of art history at Rutgers University. Her research interests center on the social aspects of design and how it affects urban communities—architecture as a literal and figural structure of power. She focuses on the ways local and national bodies have made the claim for the dominating narrative and collective memory of cities and examines how preservation and public history contribute to the creation and maintenance of the identity and sense of place of a city. Her publications cover African American cultural heritage, urbanism in New Orleans, school design, urban renewal, and preservation. She has served on the National Heritage Sites Research Committee of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the National Historic Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board, and on the boards of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, Latrobe Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Yale Black Alumni Association.