At first glance, Hood Century looks like the average architectural archive that you would expect from the digital generation. When Jerald “Coop” Cooper originally started the account @hoodcenturymodern on Instagram toward the end of 2019, he was simply trying to make the world of architecture and design more accessible for his homies. A creative director and talent manager by trade, Cooper had started researching mid-century modern design for fun. As he dug deeper into the aesthetic, he realized there was historical heritage worth uncovering.
Right now, the Museum of Modern Art is hosting an exhibition titled Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America that “examines the intersections of anti-Black racism and Blackness within urban spaces as sites of resistance and refusal, attempting to repair what it means to be American.” According to Cultured Magazine, only two percent of licensed architects in the United States are Black. Exploring what it means to create and occupy space is something that Cooper is deeply invested in. Similar to the account’s nearly 40,000 followers, he has been learning as he goes along. Earlier this year, Hood Century produced a limited set of flashcards to be used as an education tool. (They quickly sold out, but have been restocked at the Philadelphia home shop Yowie.) With his platform, Cooper hopes to be a part of fixing the erasure of Black history by documenting and archiving whatever traces can be found.
During the pandemic, Cooper returned to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, a state rich with Black history, from being the last stop on the Underground Railroad to the first housing authority in the nation. Cincinnati was also a foundational place for cultural figures like the poet Nikki Giovanni, Bootsy Collins, and The Isley Brothers. If you drive up to Ripley, Ohio you can see the real Uncle Tom’s Cabin that inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel. Despite being a birthplace for abolition, the town of Ripley is currently in disarray due to a lack of industry.
Over the past few months, Cooper has been figuring out how to establish an industry of African-American History and rebuild a place for generational healing. In addition to working on reconnecting with his own ancestors, he recently purchased 6.5 acres of farmland in Ohio. Cooper is also one of the recipients of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Through preservation and the providing of resources, he hopes to bridge this gap for the Black community.