We Built This at the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex (Fayetteville)

Fayetteville, NC
Wednesday, September 6 - Sunday, December 31

We Built This: Black Architects and Builders in North Carolina

Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex
(801 Arsenal Ave, Fayetteville, NC 28305)

September 6, 2023 – December 30, 2023
(Closed on Mondays)

Beginning on September 6th, the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex will host the Preservation North Carolina (PNC) traveling exhibit, We Built This: Profiles of Black Architects and Builders in North Carolina.

On display until the end of 2023, the exhibit is part of a multi-faceted educational program about the history, legacy and stories of this state’s Black builders and architects. This traveling exhibit acknowledges and celebrates the Black builders and craftspeople who constructed or designed many of North Carolina’s most treasured historic sites.

Spanning more than three centuries, We Built This provides more than two dozen personal profiles and historical context on key topics including the enslavement and Reconstruction eras; founding of HBCUs and Black churches; Jim Crow and segregation; and the rise of Black civic leaders and professionals.

The exhibit features many stories from across North Carolina about skilled Black builders, including Cicero Richardson, a skilled brick mason in Fayetteville, NC. At the young age of 13 or 14 years, Cicero was determined to learn brick masonry. In 1832, with his Certificate of Freedom, he traveled 100 miles from New Bern to Fayetteville alone, to begin an apprenticeship with Fayetteville brick mason Jacob Harris (circa 1799-1847).

The Harrises were a prominent free Black family in Fayetteville, and welcomed Cicero who later married Jacob’s oldest child, Sarah Ann. The Harris family, including Cicero, migrated to Ohio in the 1850s to escape the restrictive laws and increasing hostilities toward free Black people in North Carolina.

Also worth noting, after the Civil War, Jacob Harris’s sons, Robert and Cicero (named after Cicero Richardson), returned to Fayetteville to teach with the American Missionary Association. Robert Harris would become the founding principal at the Howard School (1867) and the State Colored Normal School (1877), the predecessors of Fayetteville State University.

For more information, please contact David Reid at david.reid@dncr.nc.gov or (910) 500-4242 at the Museum of the Cape Fear or Demetrius Haddock at info.rjcaah@gmail.com with the River Jordan Council on African American Heritage.