Urban Roots is a podcast that tells little known stories of urban history, highlighting the stories of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups in an effort to preserve, remember, and hear their important perspectives, contributions, and lessons. Urban Roots is a collaboration between Deqah Hussein-Wetzel, a Somali-American historic preservationist based in Cincinnati, and Vanessa Quirk, a cities journalist and podcaster based in New York City.
Check out Deqah's first podcast, Deeply Rooted Heritage!
In January 2021, Urban Roots was honored to be awarded a Truth & Reconciliation Grant from Artswave to develop a special series exploring the unique African American histories of three Cincinnati neighborhoods: Avondale, Evanston, and South Cumminsville.
This series, titled, Communities of Color: Lost Voices of Cincinnati combines oral histories from long-time Black residents with expert interviews and archival audio. This audio documentary seeks to uncover patterns of wrongdoing, preserve memory, and give voice to those whose stories have been forgotten or ignored.
We are so excited to kick off our Lost Voices of Cincinnati series with this episode that explores the rich African American history of Cincinnati. You can think of this episode as a kind of prelude of sorts. We go back, way back, to Cincinnati’s beginnings, and tell stories you’ve probably never heard.
In this episode we will explore how the black community of Avondale responded to religious and cultural shifts permanently changed the neighborhood both physically and socially. After being pushed out of the West End, African Americans purchased homes in Avondale and North Avondale...many of which continue to live there today.
After basically being cut in half by the construction of Interstate-71 during the mid-20th century, Evanston residents were the not only the victims of eminent domain, without neighborhood continuity, over time, mom-and-pop stores vanished and storefronts were, and continue to be, vacant.
The theme of this episode is homeownership, black homeownership. Although the neighborhood has lost its business district, community members have thrived and remember the vibrancy that once existed.
Historians call it the "largest freedom suit West of the Mississippi" -- the day in 1856 when 14 enslaved women and children gained their freedom in Southern California. This story, however, starts at the very beginning. This episode will follow the life struggles endured by African American pioneer slaves and midwifes, Biddy and her friend Hannah on their tortuous journey from the American South to the West.
One of the most famous "rural" cemeteries in America is Green-Wood Cemetery, founded in 1838. It's grandiose park-like setting is scattered with famed burial sites and architectural masterpieces. But, we learned in our interviews with Green-Wood staff members that there is an area of the cemetery called the Freedom Lots that interred African Americans with amazing stories that you'll discover in this episode.
If you are from Los Angeles, you may have heard of Biddy Mason, who purchased properties in Downtown Los Angeles in the late-1800s. But did you know that, by the time she died in 1891, she accumulated over $300,000 in wealth, (almost $8.5 million in today’s dollars), was a tireless philanthropist, and integral in building up the African American community, having established FAME Church in her home in 1872.
Not all "rural" cemeteries are located in the North American and Europe. In this episode, you will learn about the history of a 1821 urban cemetery in Santiago that became the final resting place for myriad notable figures in Chilean history. Unlike Green-Wood, Cemetario General relies on volunteers, not a paid staff, to preserve its physical and cultural heritage
Vanport was largest WWII Federal housing project, located just south of the Columbia River in Oregon. Housing over 42,000 residents at its inception in 1942. the site was supposed to be temporary, built by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company to house their wartime workers. After the war, 1/3 of those still living there were African American. That was, until Vanport flooded in 1948...
Although you may have heard of Madam C.J. Walker, the African American woman and self-made millionaire who revolutionized hair care for black Americans during the early 1900s, did you know that through the establishment of her manufacturing company in Indianapolis, IN, she was able to secure well paying jobs for the local black community? With the help of Ransom Freeman, who has a National Register Historic District in Indianapolis named after him, these two became a force to be reckoned with.