T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center
Red Bank, NJ
The house was designated as a National Historic Landmark on Dec. 28, 1976 in recognition of T. Thomas Fortune, civil rights advocated and journalist, who lived here with his family from 1901 to 1911. The house was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places and remains one of only two (NHL) sites in New Jersey associated with African American History. There are only 57 “National Historic Landmarks” in New Jersey, and only 2,500 in the entire USA, however the home has been neglected for many years.
Neglected for forty years, the New York Times named the National Historic Landmark as one of the ten most endangered in the United States. When local activists looked for help in organizing a movement to save the house, they turned to me based on my research about his life in their community. After a decade of fundraising and community education, hundreds of people rallied to pressure local, state, and federal officials to rehabilitate the site in 2015. The coalition failed. However, renewed interest brought a private developer who proposed an innovative solution that would underwrite the $11 million project. In May 2019, the center was fully rehabilitated and opened to the public, restoring Fortune's name and revitalizing economic interest in this historically segregated community.