How can a historic house museum speak to communities experiencing complex urban change and social ills in the twenty-first century? Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC), a post-emancipation site based in residential Brooklyn, interprets a free black, intentional, land-owning community, which established its own schools, churches, and anti-slavery organizations, and operated as a safe space for African Americans in the greater New York area throughout the nineteenth century. The museum is a direct result of more than a generation of community activism begun in the late 1960s to reclaim a forgotten history. WHC radically attempts to redefine ideas of freedom and emancipation in contemporary and self-determined ways. Drawing on Weeksville’s histories, WHC explores interpretations that highlight agency, independence, and activism and that resonate with contemporary concerns.
Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-first Century at a Post-Emancipation Site
Jennifer Scott is an anthropologist, public historian, and curator who has worked with a number of museums, non-profits, arts, and history organizations for almost twenty years, including the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience, Brooklyn Historical Society, and the Place Matters Project with City Lore. Jennifer has been a part-time professor at the New School for Public Engagement since 2003. Recently, she served for ten years as the Vice Director and Director of Research at Weeksville Heritage Center, a socially relevant historic house museum specializing in innovative applications of history, culture, and the arts. This year she became the Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago.
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Jennifer Scott; Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-first Century at a Post-Emancipation Site. The Public Historian 1 May 2015; 37 (2): 73–88. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2015.37.2.73
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