The Scuffletown Project is a rural Black historic preservation research and consulting project inspired by my grandparents’ communities of Scuffletown (Albemarle County) and Geetown (Orange County)—both located in Virginia’s central piedmont.
This project began at the feet of my grandparents in the 1990s, where I listened to their stories and learned to cherish the spaces and places that shaped their lives. While studying architectural history and historic preservation in graduate school, I began to advocate for the survival of rural Black cultural heritage and to push back against our relatively low representation on state and national historic registers. My masters thesis explored why my paternal grandparents’ community of Scuffletown and several other historically Black neighborhoods were mostly left of out of the Southwest Mountains rural historic district and determined there are weaknesses in preservation policy, training, outreach, and inclusion/ representation.
Through the Scuffletown Project, I will continue to advocate for more innovative preservation practices that look beyond the limitations of the physical built environment to recover the essence and spirit of life in rural Black America: baptisms, homecomings, family reunions, songs, communal practices, pathways, and more. The Scuffletown Project seeks to empower Black rural communities to get involved in our own historic preservation projects and cultural heritage stewardship.
So far, the Scuffletown Project has resulted in national register nominations for three historic Tuskegee Rosenwald Schools: Buckingham Training School, St. John School, and Pine Grove School. The project has also inspired a review of historic districts initially stewarded by Piedmont Environmental Council, and an effort to revise the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District in northern Albemarle County to include historic Black communities.