We Built This Educational Program



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)



Many of the historic buildings we revere in North Carolina are credited to their owners. Rarely are the people responsible for the labor and craftsmanship recognized. We Built This seeks to acknowledge the countless African Americans who built the historic buildings we collectively treasure. These individuals were skilled in principles of engineering, construction and business. Many became political and social leaders in their communities. Acknowledging the significance of this history is a start to preserving a tangible link to the past through our built environment.

Preservation North Carolina has developed We Built This: Profiles of Black Architects and Builders in North Carolina, a phased multi-year educational program about the history and legacy of Black builders and craftspeople in North Carolina. We Built This will include three major components: a traveling exhibit (see below); a documentary film series to premiere in 2024; and a book in production for 2026.


This exhibition reveals the extraordinary stories of more than two dozen builders, craftsmen, and architects responsible for the construction of some of North Carolina’s treasured landmarks. Spanning more than three centuries, We Built This provides personal profiles and historic context on key topics including slavery and Reconstruction; the 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 at each venue.

We Built This on display at Dix Park Chapel in Raleigh

Valerie Jarrett with her great-great-grandfather Henry Taylor’s profile at Historic Rosedale in Charlotte

We Built This on display at NC A&T in Greensboro

Evelyn Terry speaks about her grandfather, brickmaker, George Black at Union Station in Winston-Salem










Exhibit Specs:

  • Six (6) 89”x 89”x 12” Freestanding backdrops
  • Fifteen (15) 33.5”x 80” Double-sided banner stands
  • Space required: approximately 800sf (various configurations)
  • Rental Fee: $2,500 + shipping to your site
  • Loan Period: 8-16 weeks suggested
  • NEW! Digital version of exhibit now available in Spanish
  • Download the We Built This Exhibit Packet for more information.

Click here to inquire about availability.

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. Special thanks to the Forsyth County Historic Resources Commission for creating a digital Spanish-translated version!

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

We Built This Venues (past, present, and future)

We Built This in the Press