We Built This

Profiles of Black Architects and Builders in North Carolina

Initials of enslaved plasterer William B. Gould etched into decorative plaster at the Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington.

Hiding in plain sight is the physical manifestation of our labor, because most of the historic structures in this country were built by, constructed by Black people… and yet those stories have never been told.

— Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation (2020)

We Built This is part of a multi-faceted educational program about the history and legacy of Black builders and craftspeople in North Carolina. The traveling exhibit highlights the stories of those who constructed and 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 historic context on key topics including slavery and Reconstruction; founding of HBCUs and Black churches; Jim Crow and segregation; and the rise of Black civic leaders and professionals. We Built This offers endless opportunities for expanded programming.

  • Exhibit Specs
    • (6) 89”x89”x12” Freestanding backdrops
    • (15) 33.5”x80” Double-sided banner stands
  • Space required: approximately 800sf (multiple configurations)
  • Rental Fee: $2,500 + shipping to your site
  • Loan Period: 8-16 weeks suggested

Contact: Julianne Patterson to inquire about availability.

Download a brochure with more information.

We Built This – In the Press

Thank you to the many people who contributed research, stories, and time to make this exhibit possible, including Sami Allen, Catherine Bishir, Al Bredenberg, Benjamin Briggs, Martha Canipe, Andrea Clarke, Monica Davis, Stephanie Davis, Design Dimensions, Chris Everett, Dr. Torren L. Gatson, Clarissa Goodlett, Tom Hanchett, Lisa Y. Henderson, Alice Eley Jones, Kim Smith, Laurel Sneed, Dr. Benjamin Speller Jr, Gwynne Taylor, Sarah Woodard, and a growing list of many more.

Thank you to the following generous donors: 

Anonymous Trust, Marion S. Covington Foundation, A. J. Fletcher Foundation

Empire Properties, Mary Anne Howard, Neighboring Concepts

Stephanie Fanjul, Anne Franklin, Baird S. and Pauline F. Grimson, Myrick Howard, Thomas S. Kenan, The Terence L. Mills Fund for North and South Carolina of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Rodney Swink and Juanita Shearer-Swink, Patricia Wilson