Making African American Historic Sites a Priority

Article excerpt

Last year, Charles Jordan became the first African American to chair a national conservation organization when he was tapped to head The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit environmental organization. Established in 1985, it partners with organizations to protect the nation's land and water resources.

"This is a rare opportunity," says Jordan, 66. "I feel very strongly that there are some stories that need to be told from the perspective of a person of color."

As chairman of The Conservation Fund, Jordan, whose public service career spans 30 years, now has the opportunity to provide a forum for minority concerns.

He helped establish the nation's first Black Family Land Trust. Still in its early stages, this coalition of more than 30 organizations throughout the South is helping African American families and farmers retain their land by providing them with the conservation and community development tools and resources needed to preserve their unique natural, historic and cultural heritage.

Jordan's favorite projects are the Booker T. Washington Home and Civil War sites. The Conservation Fund has acquired 15 acres of agricultural land near Roanoke, Va., including the seven acres of housing on the Burroughs farm where Washington was born in the 1850s. In Port Hudson, La., the fund and its partners purchased 256 acres of land that is the historic battlefield where Black troops made their first major assault in the Civil War on May 27, 1863. And in Lithonia, Ga., a small, historic African American community just outside Atlanta, the fund is helping to restore one of the country's oldest remaining historically Black cemeteries. …