Issue No. 2
September 2013
September Issue: Inside

YAC Trip: 13 youth and a Brit travel the Ohio River Valley

This year the Youth Advisory Council's annual trip visited the North-South border states of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The 12 YAC members, 4 chaperones and NPHM's intern for 2013-14 Rachael Foster (from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom) toured four prominent AA museums and 2 colleges and traversed the Ohio River, the famous geographic boundary between North and South, slave and free. We asked Rachael to share some of her perspectives from the trip ...  which was a kind of welcome to the U.S. for her, just three weeks into her tenure. She also culled some insights from the youth's creative journals which they share with the museum staff as part of the YAC's participation in a grant from the Chicago Area Project.

Day 1 - Thursday

We spent most of our first day traveling but by late afternoon arrived at the Levi Coffin house in Fountain City, IN, a stop on the Underground Railroad. And just what was this mysterious railroad? Savannah Wright shared the image many of us had, "that many people go underground to escape the life of slavery." But after the tour we stood corrected, as Destin Sopena discovered, "the Underground railroad wasn't actually underground at was a metaphor for the passage slaves used to escape slavery." Back at the hotel we enjoyed pizza and recuperated.  




Day 2 - Friday

Today was our busiest day of the trip with a museum visit, two college tours and a trip to Kings Island on the itinerary. In the morning we were taken round the Paul Lawrence Dunbar museum in Dayton, OH. According to Toni Dixon, "his home is a really cool place and from what I see he lived better than me!" As a group we were most impressed with the condition of Dunbar's study and bedroom, left untouched since his early death. In the afternoon we were shown around both Central State University and Wilberforce University. Both campuses were lovely and the students were encouraged by what they saw and heard. To Allen and the students delight our last stop of the day was Kings Island, an amusement park. Most were persuaded to try at least one roller coaster and a good time was had by all. On the way to the hotel the team enjoyed a video of Allen and I being shot up into the sky on a ride called "Slingshot." It is safe to say I was screaming my head off which provided for lots of laughs!


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Day 3 - Saturday


In Cincinnati, OH we visited the Freedom Center; a museum commemorating the first stop on the Underground Railroad. We were given a fantastically detailed tour which took us through more than a century of episodes on the African American journey to freedom. After a long tour at the museum everyone was ready for a refuel, including the bus (and our amiable bus driver). In the early evening we arrived in Louisville, Kentucky and searched for a bite to eat downtown. Downtown Louisville is oddly cordoned off for the over 21's, but I used my British accent to convince them to make an exception: after all we were just going to eat.  And eat we did!


Day 4 - Sunday

Sunday was mostly a traveling day; we had a long journey to make from Louisville, KY to Chicago. On our way we stopped in Evansville, IN to visit the African American history museum there. It was a small museum with a local focus which gave it a unique perspective. The staff on the trip were particularly interested in this museum because it was housed in a preserved public housing building. It was a long journey back to Chicago through the farm land of Illinois but with the help of Steak and Shake we all arrived back safe and well on Sunday evening, sufficiently exhausted!




By Rachael Foster  

The Animal Court was the core cultural feature of the Jane Addams Homes, adjacent to the site where the National Public Housing Museum will be housed. The pieces were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and sculpted by Edgar Miller. Our colleagues at the Dreihaus Foundation recently supplied NPHM with these CHA or WPA photos of the sculptures circa 1938 when they were brand new. Currently the sculptures are being restored in Forest Park, IL at the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, with plans to include them as part of the NPHM's outdoor spaces as well as in the adjacent Roosevelt Square development. We were pleased to supply this historic documentation to this week's blog from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Read more about the current status of the Animal Court at PreservationNation here.

Animal Court, Jane Addams Homes ca. 1938.


Susie Mushatt Jones is 112 years old and the oldest living resident of NYCHA's collective housing sites. Over the past decade, she has received numerous proclamations from local and state politicians as well as from President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. You can read the full interview with her below along with many other NYCHA residents stories.

The interviews and photo shoots were conducted by journalist Rico Washington and photographer Shino Yanagaw and explore and challenge the stigmas and stereotypes associated with blacks and Latinos in New York City's public housing community.

National Public Housing Museum
National Public Housing Museum
Chicago, Illinois 60607
THE PUBLIC CONVERSATION    a monthly newsletter curated by the National Public Housing Museum

The Ford Foundation and National Public Housing Museum invite you to

Reimagining Public Housing

Beyond the Bricks and Mortar

Thursday, October 17, 2013
12:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Reception to follow

With the inequality gap widening after the Great Recession, millions of Americans are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. And yet appreciation and support for the many benefits of public housing have diminished.


In this time of economic challenge for many Americans, how do we reinvigorate the idea of safe, affordable homes for all? How can we build smarter, more effective public housing? What role can public-private partnerships play in unlocking new capital and spurring innovation?


Join us as we bring together key stakeholders-including public housing residents, philanthropy and business leaders, artists and activists-to reimagine public housing's future and explore its role in a more just society.

Ford Foundation
320 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017


Please save the date. For more information, contact Michelle E.L. Merritt at  

From left to right: Bobby Rush, Jack O'Malley, Francine Washington and Robert Owens

Francine Washington moved into Stateway Gardens at 20 years old and from an early stage involved herself in resident advocacy and leadership. She has served as an LAC President for the last 20 years and currently holds the post at Washington Park. She is a member of the NPHM board and has been a vocal supporter since the museums inception. Francine kindly lent the museum this collection of historic photographs that reflects a number of communities living in CHA housing going back decades, and also documents her involvement as a public housing community leader. Here are a few favorite pics from that collection.
1979. CHA Staff inspect buildings at Stateway Gardens 
1977, Robert Taylor Basketball Tournament
TESTIFYING: Poverty Elimination Strategies for IL

The Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty is an initiative of the governor that is seeking to reduce extreme poverty in the state by half. On September 3, 2013 NPHM Board Member Francene Washington was one of over a dozen activists, citizens and community leaders who came before the Commission to voice their concerns and offer grassroots-based policy suggestions. 
Speaking from her personal experience and representing the Washington Park and Stateway Gardens/Park Boulevard Communities as a Local Advisory Council President, Ms. Washington highlighted the lack of cultural and recreational opportunities for youth in Chicago and illustrated the ways that gap in the cultural infrastructure intersects with crime and violence to create vicious cycles -- like finding jobs for kids coming out of prison. Other speakers threw light on the challenges faced by underbanked families, immigrants seeking educational opportunites, and formerly incarcerated men seeking alternatives to criminal economies through stable employment. 
The commission included representatives from Governor Quinn's office, the Illinois State Senate, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Heartland Alliance and the State Board of Education who together requested the oral testimony from the public to shape a strategy for reducing poverty "in a manner consistent with international human rights standards."
Do it. See it. Hear it. Learn it.
A nation of events, exhibits, performances and talks

Theaster Gates, 12 Ballads for the Huguenot House, 2012, Performance view
See how Hirschhorn has turned the courtyard of a Morrisania public housing project into a massive interactive art installation dubbed The Gramsci Monument. It closes September 15 and is open 10am - 7pm daily.

Experience the genius of Theaster Gates at the MCA (Hurry! It closes October 6).

Arm yourself with the best available information on how you can help localities and states work collaboratively to address residents housing challenges. It runs September 16 - 18 2013.

How did Cabrini Green projects spawn the man behind Superfly? Cabrini alum Jackie Taylor co-directs this dramatization of the real life story of Curtis Mayfield in its all right to have a good time at the Black Ensemble Theater, Uptown.
Commissioner Deverra Beverly, Founding Chair NPHM with Sunny Fischer, NPHM Board Chair
at the Mayor's 20th Annual Neighborhood Festival at ABLA  this August 3, 2013

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