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New UPenn, Tuskegee partnership aims to advance historic preservation, civil rights heritage in Alabama

April 02, 2020

Randall Mason, Ph.D, FAAR, University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weizmann School of Design 
Michael Tullier, APR, Tuskegee University Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing


Willcox Hall A
TU School of Architecture & Construction Science's Wilcox A building.

The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design and Tuskegee University’s Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science are partnering to increase the visibility of histories of the American civil rights movement and its built, landscape and environmental legacies.

PennPraxis, the Weizman School’s consulting and community engagement arm, along with the school’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, are working with Tuskegee to build its preservation teaching capacity, produce original research and conduct public outreach.

Under the 18-month partnership, Penn and Tuskegee will collaborate to document and activate culturally significant buildings, sites, towns and landscapes — in part through a collaboration with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. They will also explore successful preservation, planning and development strategies for small towns.

Penn and Tuskegee will also collaborate on curriculum development, classroom work and student-centered field projects to strengthen their respective graduate and undergraduate programs. Penn has a long-established two-year Master of Science in Historic Preservation degree program and new one-year post-professional master of science degrees. Tuskegee has a new minor in historic preservation and renowned bachelor of architecture degree programs.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to learn about the powerful heritage and landscapes of Alabama’s Black Belt. Together, our institutions have already identified exciting teaching and research opportunities on the Tuskegee campus, in the town of Tuskegee, and elsewhere in Alabama, including the city of Selma,” said Dr. Randall Mason, associate professor in Penn’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at Penn and the project’s director.

“Tuskegee’s century-long legacy of community engagement makes this collaboration with Penn a perfect fit,” added Kwesi Daniels, assistant professor and department head of architecture at Tuskegee. “There are so many sites that need to be preserved, but have not had the resources or expertise that Penn and Tuskegee can provide. We are excited about how this partnership will enhance our historic preservation curricula, provide life-changing student opportunities, and further our goals to preserve the rich cultural legacy of the civil rights movement.”

The initiative is supported by the J.M. Kaplan Fund and Kevin Penn, chair of the Board of Overseers at the Weitzman School.

 “The J.M. Kaplan Fund is extremely pleased to support this new partnership between Tuskegee and Penn,” said the fund’s executive director, Amy Freitag. “These two venerable institutions have much to learn from one another and together they can lift up some of America’s most important yet threatened heritage.”


Note: Tuskegee University thanks the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design for permission to republish this article, which originally appeared at


© 2020, Tuskegee University, University of Pennsylvania