The Aberdeen Gardens 158: Built By Us, For Us, co-produced by The Historical Foundation of Aberdeen Gardens and The Unity Cornerstone Foundation, will soon be seen across America. Award-winning director and writer Tomeka M. Winborne, together with award-winning playwright/screenwriter David Barr III and Terrena Smith, have worked for more than two years preparing their highly anticipated feature documentary for national distribution. The moment has arrived!
On June 1, 2020, The Historical Foundation of Aberdeen Gardens received an unprecedented grant from the 400 Years of African American History Commission (Under the auspices of The National Park Service) to develop a documentary based on the Aberdeen Gardens neighborhood in Hampton Roads, Virginia. After two years, The Unity Cornerstone Foundation completed The Aberdeen Gardens 158: Built By Us, For Us.
Hampton’s Aberdeen Gardens is the result of a planned community proposal initiated by administrators from Hampton Institute, one of the earliest HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in America. In 1934, school President Dr. Arthur C. Howe appealed directly to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Home Sustinence Program to subsidize a ‘resettlement community’ for African American railroad, dockyard, and shipyard workers across southeastern Virginia. Upon approval of the grant, Aberdeen Gardens became the first federally funded housing project created exclusively for Blacks in the United States.
It not only is the last community of its kind to remain completely in tact, but Aberdeen Gardens has the distinction of being the only ‘resttlement development’ designed by a Black architect, overseen by a Black engineer and supervisor, and constructed completely by African American laborers; hence their motto “Built By Blacks, For Blacks.” Sixty years after its inception, the neighborhood officially became a United States Historic District. (In addition, Aberdeen Gardens is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Virginia State Landmarks Register, and was named “National Neighborhood of The Year” twice by the NUSA.)
Aberdeen Gardens is unlike any other community in this country. It is a 440-acre greenbelt subdivision that features 158 Colonial Revival and Queen Anne vernacular, double brick single-family homes with contributing buildings. But the validated roots of this modest community stretch much further back, to the first documented enslaved Africans who arrived in the English colonies over 400 years ago. Despite it’s landmark status, however, the community still faces debilitating modern challenges that continually threaten its historic sovereignty.
The Aberdeen Gardens 158: Built By Us, For Us received its public premiere screening on September 16, 2022 at the American Theatre in the Phoebus section of Hampton, Virginia. A few months later, the 400 Years of African American History Commission kickstarted their 2023 broadcast schedule by revealing a trailer of the movie on the bi-monthly news program “The 400 Hour: Episode 3 — Justice Sunday” that can be seen on their streaming channel, SmogoTV.com. The film, in its entirety, has been added to their website, www.400YAAHC.gov, where it can be viewed On Demand.
The Aberdeen Gardens 158: Built By Us, For Us is the first documentary ever produced by surviving original members of this proud community. To purchase a DVD copy of the film please call (757) 722-2345. To arrange an in-person tour of The Aberdeen Gardens History Museum or to obtain more information about Historic Aberdeen Gardens please visit www.aberdeengardensfoundation.org To screen the film publicly for your festival or organization, contact Unity Cornerstone Foundation.