Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Saur September 3, 2021

Preserving History for the Persistent Legacy of Our School: A Youth-Led Participatory Heritage Project

Ayana Allen-Handy, Alysha Meloche, Jahyonna Brown, Ayanna Frazier, Karena Escalante, Marie Walker, Isaiah Burns, Nehemiah Edwards-Chapman, Qudia Ervin, Anna Thomas, Melissa Thomas, Iminie Wortham, Destiny Bugg and Janel Dia


This in-process project report describes a critical youth-led participatory heritage project that seeks to document, preserve, and make digitally accessible oral histories, archives, and artifacts of an urban, predominantly African American high school with a rich history and legacy. As a long-standing community institution, the narratives emerging from this high school are intricately connected with the larger story of the city of Philadelphia. This article uses an equity-based lens to demonstrate how youth-led participatory heritage can contribute to youth empowerment, critical consciousness development, and critical digital literacies. Implications for schools and communities experiencing gentrification, displacement, and community change are provided, including how participatory heritage with youth can utilize collaborative, asset-based efforts to foster change that allows youth and communities to have agency over their individual and collective stories, community history and legacy, and their futures.

Corresponding author: Alysha Meloche, School of Education, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, E-mail:


Allen-Handy, A., and S. L. Thomas-EL. 2018. “Be(com)ing Critical Scholars: The Emergence of Urban Youth Scholar Identities through Research and Critical Civic Praxis.” Urban Education. in Google Scholar

Allen-Handy, A., Thomas-EL, S. L., & K. K. Sung. 2021. “Urban Youth Scholars: Cultivating Global Leadership Development through Youth-led Justice-oriented Research.” Urban Review 53 (2): 264–94. in Google Scholar

Achinte, A. A. 2013. “Capítulo 13 PEDAGOGÍAS DE LA RE-EXISTENCIA. Artistas Indígenas y Afrocolombianos AdOlFO AlBán AChinte 202.” In Pedagogías Decoloniales: Prácticas Insurgentes de Resistir, (Re)Existir y (Re)Vivir, edited by C. Walsh, 443–68. Quinto: Abya Yala 2013. Also available at in Google Scholar

Alcalá, J. C. 2019. “Community Engaged Scholarship in Archival Studies: Documenting Housing Displacement and Gentrification in a Latino Community.” Community Archives, Community Spaces: Heritage, Memory and Identity 149–64.10.29085/9781783303526.010Search in Google Scholar

Anderson, J. D. 1988. The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–935. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.10.5149/uncp/9780807842218Search in Google Scholar

Barrett, E. 2015. “Materiality, Language and the Production of Knowledge: Art, Subjectivity and Indigenous Ontology.” Cultural Studies Review 21 (2): 101–19, in Google Scholar

Bell, D. A. 1980. “Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma.” Harvard Law Review 93 (3): 518–33, in Google Scholar

Blackmore, K. 2017. “(Mis)Representing Others: Ethical Dilemmas of Socially Engaged Art Practice.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Global Arts Education, edited by G. Barton, and M. Baguley, 349–60, in Google Scholar

Cammarota, J., and Michelle. Fine. 2010. Revolutionizing Education: Youth Participatory Action Research in Motion. Abingdon: Routledge.10.4324/9780203932100Search in Google Scholar

Cammarota, J., and A. Romero. 2011. “Participatory Action Research for High School Students: Transforming Policy, Practice, and the Personal with Social Justice Education.” Educational Policy 25 (3): 488–506, in Google Scholar

Caswell, M., M. Cifor, and M. H. Ramirez. 2016. “‘To Suddenly Discover Yourself Existing’: Uncovering the Impact of Community Archives.” The American Archivist 79 (1): 56–81, in Google Scholar

Caswell, M., M. Alda Allina, N. Geraci, and M. Cifor. 2017. “‘To Be Able to Imagine Otherwise’: Community Archives and the Importance of Representation.” Archives and Records 38 (1): 5–26, in Google Scholar

Checkoway, B. 2011. “What Is youth Participation?.” Children and Youth Services Review 33 (2): 340–5, in Google Scholar

Clapper, M. 2006. “School Design, Site Selection, and the Political Geography of Race in Postwar Philadelphia.” Journal of Planning History 5 (3): 241–63, in Google Scholar

Cook, T. 2013. “Evidence, Memory, Identity, and Community: Four Shifting Archival Paradigms.” Archival Science 13 (2): 95–120, in Google Scholar

Dolan, T., B. D. Christens, and C. Lin. 2015. “Combining youth Organizing and youth Participatory Action Research to Strengthen Student voice in Education Reform.” Teachers College Record 117 (13): 153–70.10.1177/016146811511701303Search in Google Scholar

Dressler, V. A. 2018. “Archive as Medium.” Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture (PDT&C) 47 (2): 45–53. in Google Scholar

Evans, J., S. McKemmish, E. Daniels, and G. McCarthy. 2015. “Self-Determination and Archival Autonomy: Advocating Activism.” Archival Science 15 (4): 337–68. in Google Scholar

Furman, G. 2012. “Social Justice Leadership as Praxis: Developing Capacities through Preparation Programs.” Educational Administration Quarterly 48 (2): 191–229, in Google Scholar

Gaztambide-Fernández, R. 2013. “Thinking Otherwise about the Arts in Education—A Rejoinder.” Harvard Educational Review 83: 636–43, in Google Scholar

Ginwright, S. A. 2010. “Collective Radical Imagination: Youth Participatory Action Research and the Art of Emancipatory Knowledge.” In Revolutionizing Education: Youth Participatory Action Research in Motion, edited by J. Cammarota, and M. Fine, 13–22. Abingdon: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Ginwright, S. A., and J. Cammarota. 2002. “New Terrain in Youth Development: The Promise of a Social Justice Approach.” Social Justice 29 (4): 82–95.Search in Google Scholar

Goldenberg, B. M. 2016. “Youth Historians in Harlem: An After-School Blueprint for History Engagement through the Historical Process.” The Social Studies 107 (2): 47–67. in Google Scholar

Hancock, S. D., Allen-Handy, A., Williams, J., Butler, B. R., Meloche, A., and C. W. Lewis. 2021. “Teaching to Empower: Social Justice Action Projects as Imperatives for Educational Justice.” Teachers College Record 123 (13), in Google Scholar

Herzfeld, M. 2010. “Engagement, Gentrification, and the Neoliberal Hijacking of History.” Current Anthropology 51 (S2): S259–67. in Google Scholar

Hoare, T., C. Levy, and M. P. Robinson. 1993. “Participatory Action Research in Native Communities: Cultural Opportunities and Legal Implications.” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 13 (1): 43–68.Search in Google Scholar

Lac, V. T., and M. Fine. 2018. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: An Autoethnographic Journey on Doing Participatory Action Research as a Graduate Student.” Urban Education 53 (4): 562–83. in Google Scholar

Lankes, R. D., M. Stephens, and M. Arjona. 2018. “Participatory and Transformative Engagement in Libraries and Museums: Exploring and Expanding the Salzburg Curriculum.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 24: S61–8.10.12783/issn.2328-2967/56/S1/7Search in Google Scholar

Lee, V. J., A. Meloche, A. Grant, D. Neuman, and M. J. Tecce DeCarlo. 2019. “My Thoughts on Gun Violence”: An Urban Adolescent’s Display of Agency and Multimodal Literacies.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 63 (2): 157–68. in Google Scholar

Li, N. 2016. “Whose History, Whose Memory? A Culturally Sensitive Narrative Approach.” In Bending the Future, edited by M. Page, and M. R. Miller, 136–9. Fifty Ideas for the Next Fifty Years of Historic Preservation in the United States. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press. Also available at in Google Scholar

Liew, C. L., A. Goulding, and M. Nichol. 2020. “From Shoeboxes to Shared Spaces: Participatory Cultural Heritage Via Digital Platforms.” Information, Communication, & Society 1–18, in Google Scholar

Miller, K. F. 2010. Impact of Historical Preservation on the Free Library of Philadelphia: Its Neighborhoods and Communities. Philadelphia: Drexel University.Search in Google Scholar

Miller, R., and S. Joseph. 1980. “The Emerging Suburb: West Philadelphia, 1850–1880.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 47 (2): 99–146.Search in Google Scholar

Orfield, G., and S. E. Eaton. 1996. Dismantling Desegregation. The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: The New Press.Search in Google Scholar

Perkiss, A. 2014. Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia. New York: Cornell University Press.10.7591/cornell/9780801452284.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Phillips, R. G., and J. M. Stein. 2013. “An Indicator Framework for Linking Historic Preservation and Community Economic Development.” Social Indicators Research 113 (1): 1–15, in Google Scholar

Poole, A. H. 2020. “The Information Work of Community Archives: A Systematic Literature Review.” Journal of Documentation, (Epub ahead of print).Search in Google Scholar

Ritchie, D. A. 2014. Doing oral History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Sandler, E. 2016. “Archival Activism and Social Justice: Spotlight on Americana 2016: A Report.” Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture (PDT&C) 45 (2): 87–90, in Google Scholar

Shilton, K., and R. Srinivasan. 2007. “Participatory Appraisal and Arrangement for Multicultural Archival Collections.” Archivaria 87–101.Search in Google Scholar

Sierra, Z., and G. Fallon. 2016. “Rethinking Creativity from the ‘South’: Alternative Horizons toward Strengthening Community-Based Well-Being.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Creativity and Culture Research, edited by V. P. Glăveanu, 355–74. Palgrave Studies in Creativity and Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.10.1057/978-1-137-46344-9_17Search in Google Scholar

Sutherland, T. 2017. “Making a Killing: On Race, Ritual, and (Re)Membering in Digital Culture.” Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture 46 (1): 32–40, in Google Scholar

Thomas-EL, S. L. 2019. “In My Neighborhood, but Not for Me”: Long-Standing African American Residents’ Perceptions of Gentrification, Anchor Institution Expansion and the Paradox of Civic Engagement. Ann Arbor: ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.10.17918/mape-pg96Search in Google Scholar

Uricchio, W. 2009. “Moving Beyond the Artefact: Lessons from Participatory Culture.” In Digital Material, edited by M. van den Boomen, S. Lammes, A.-S. Lehmann, J. Raessens, and M. Tobias Schäfer, 135–46. Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Also available at in Google Scholar

Wabende, K., and J. Kyung Park. 2017. “Applied Theatre as a Medium of Communal Communication: ‘Access to Justice’ Project in Kwale, Kenya.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Global Arts Education, edited by G. Barton, and M. Baguley, 323–30. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, in Google Scholar

Wilkerson, I. 2011. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Reprint edition. New York: Vintage.Search in Google Scholar

Yosso, T. J. 2005. “Whose Culture Has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth.” Race, Ethnicity and Education 8 (1): 69–91, in Google Scholar

Zavala, J., A. Allina Migoni, M. Caswell, N. Geraci, and M. Cifor. 2017. “A Process where We’re All at the Table’: Community Archives Challenging Dominant Modes of Archival Practice.” Archives and Manuscripts 45 (3): 202–15, in Google Scholar

Ziegler, A. P. 1974. Historic Preservation in Inner City Areas: A Manual of Practice, First revised edition. Pittsburgh: Ober Park Associates.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2021-09-03
Published in Print: 2021-04-27

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston