Preservation Massachusetts, the state’s historic preservation advocacy organization, has announced UMass Dartmouth’s Lee Blake as one of the recipients of the 2016 K. Julie McCarthy Community Spirit Awards.
This award, which was created in 2010, recognizes individuals and groups who are active in efforts to preserve buildings and historic character or educate about the importance of historic preservation.
“Often times these individuals work behind the scenes,” said Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts. “They are inspirational models and leaders in our preservation community and are great examples for others to look up to.”
A commitment to sharing the contributions of people of color
Since high school, Blake has wanted to counter the negative image that many have of the contributions to history of people of color. When she began her career as a teacher, Blake taught African American studies in local high schools, and she realized that her students had no idea of the rich history that surrounded them.
“I remember reading the Narrative of Frederick Douglass with high school students who just couldn’t believe that Douglass lived in New Bedford,” Blake said. “I made a personal commitment to make sure young folks would know why many came to New Bedford and what an amazing history we all shared.”
An active participant in the historical preservation of New Bedford
As a way to fulfill her commitment, Blake is president of the New Bedford Historical Society, which celebrates the history and legacy of African Americans, Cape Verdeans, Native Americans, and other people of color in the region.
She’s been been extremely active in historic preservation of New Bedford. “I have worked regionally and nationally to elevate the visibility of New Bedford’s unique role in the history of nineteenth century African American history through work preserving and promoting historic sites that were part of the Underground Railroad in the region,” Blake said.