PhD Candidate in the Department of History and Department of African American Studies at Princeton University.
This is me.
Niya Bates is a PhD candidate in the Department of History and Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. She studies 19th and 20th century U.S. history, global environmentalism, and rural cultural landscapes. For the past five years, Bates has worked in public history preserving rural African American community history in Central, VA. In that time, she also served as the director of African American history and the Getting Word African American Oral History Project at Monticello. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, CBS, The Today Show, NBC, PBS News Hour, ESPN The Undefeated, and Black Perspectives. Bates has been a guest on several podcasts and streaming platforms, including Oprah's Book Club, Monty Don's American Gardens, NPR's All Things Considered, Sporkful with Dan Pashman, and Following Harriet.
She earned a B.A. in African and African American Studies and an M.A. in Architectural History with a certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia. Niya was born and raised in Central Virginia and is a descendant of several families who were enslaved in that area.
Historic Preservation Culture
History Cultural Landscapes
Descendant Communities Heritage
I collaborate with communities to preserve Black history.
As a public historian and architectural historian, I have worked with several rural communities to help preserve their heritage through national register nominations for historic African American schools, some funded by the storied Rosenwald Fund. In order to provide school buildings for Black rural communities in the south, Julius Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington and Black architects from Tuskegee University to design school plans that could be easily replicated by communities. The Rosenwald Fund provided seed money for implementing the plans and required participation by both Black and white residents of the area surrounding the school. The Rosenwald Fund formally supported the construction of over 5000 schools, shop buildings, and teacher houses across the U.S., however only about 10% of those schools survive today. Rosenwald schools are just one chapter in the history of African American schools.
Read below to learn more about some communities striving to preserve their historic African American schools, shop buildings, and teachers' houses.
& Ellis Acres Memorial Park
From 1924 to 1954, the now-demolished training school functioned as the only high school for Black students in Buckingham County. The shop building still stands and was built in 1932. It's one of only 11 Rosenwald-funded shops constructed in Virginia. Today, it functions as a community center and park. It was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.