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Valerie Cunningham Accepts Hero Award



We’ve long known historian Valerie Cunningham as a local hero. But now Washington, DC agrees. Recently the "Restore America" program hosted its annual gala at the Library of Congress. A few exclusive photos are included below.




Visit our Black History section

HGTV and the National Trust present the
2008 Restore America Awards

And the winner is….

Valerie Cunningham was the first person we called when starting this web site back in 1996. Her evolving Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail was making its debut and wanted to get the word out. We’ve been working together to promote those stories every since.

hgtv01.jpgA few weeks ago we got a call from the folks at HGTV asking about Val. The wanted to borrow a few photos from the web site for a film honoring Valerie. HGTV? Yes, the Home & Garden TV channel gives out a prestigious "Restore America" award in cooperation with the National Trust in Washington, DC, the nonprofit agency focused on historic restoration.

Restoring houses, restoring America. Get it? It took us a few minutes to make the connection. According to HGTV, the awards are part of a major public relations initiative to spotlight preservation projects that tell the story of America. The National Trust also recently named Portsmouth, NH among its Distinctive Destinations for heritage tourists. It was, interestingly, the first president of the National Trust, Richard Howland, who visited Portsmouth in 1957 and spurred the city along the path to historic preservation that led to the founding of Strawbery Banke Museum,-- where Valerie first began her unique research.

Valerie was in good company in DC, mixing with the politicians, TV stars and VIPs. The highlight of each year's event held at the Library of Congress is the presentation of six Restore America Hero awards. Past winners include Senator Hillary Clinton, designer Ralph Lauren, singer Don Henley, actor Diane Keaton, the Boston Red Sox, Senator Ted Kennedy and first lady Laura Bush,

As we’ve often noted here, Valerie’s work into African American history in Portsmouth, NH, has changed the way people see history – in our little town and across the nation. No one can ever talk about New Hampshire history without including her breakthrough research that traces our black heritage from 1645 to the present day.

As soon as she arrived home, we asked Valerie for her impressions. She was still speechless, but she passed on these photos of the glorious event, that we now pass on to you. – JDR

Restore America Award Ceremony
June 2, 2008
Photos by Brad Cunningham
Notes from Valerie Cunningham


Library of Congress Rotunda. Dinner was served on the upper balconies during the ceremony; a jazz band and dessert reception were below. Extraordinary!


Professor David Watters and JerriAnne Boggis from UNH, my son, Brad Randolph, with me, Brent Leggs, from the Northeast Regional Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.



Chilled pureed pea soup with orzo & lobster timbale followed by beef tenderloin with spring vegetables and potato-eggplant galette. Those tendrils were cascading from the elevated mixed floral arrangement.


Valerie chatting with the emcee for the award ceremony, Carter Oosterhouse, a building and construction expert who hosts HGTV's "Carter Can." Carter was People Magazine's 2003 "Sexiest Man Alive." The woman to Carter's left is the public relations person for HGTV and was coordinating this photo op. Every detail of the entire evening was exquisitely planned and memorable -- I felt like a queen. Thank you all for your good wishes. Courtesy Photos


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