Finding the Cornerstone

A disabled white preacher stumbles upon the works of a forgotten African American architect and begins a mission to uncover and preserve the architect’s legacy.


Two men separated by race, education and time. Their stories united by happenstance - and captured now in Finding the Cornerstone: The Wallace A. Rayfield Story, a film by Dwight Cammeron.

Born in Macon, Georgia in 1873, Wallace Augustus Rayfield was the second university-educated African American architect. His most familiar design is Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. The church was the site of the 1963 bomb blast that killed four young girls. Many of the places of worship Rayfield designed in the South were rallying locations during the Civil Rights Movement. He designed hundreds of structures throughout the South prior to the Great Depression. Today, around the country, many of the buildings Rayfield designed are still standing.

The discovery of Rayfield’s legacy began in the fall of 1993 when Allen Durough, a white, Baptist preacher was demolishing an old barn on his property in Bessemer, Alabama. Durough inspected the barn before the demolition began and found 411 printing plates that belonged to Rayfield. Over the last 18 years, Durough has painstakingly researched Rayfield’s life.   In 2010, he published The Architectural Legacy of Wallace A. Rayfield.

Despite all his efforts, Durough has failed to find a permanent home for Rayfield's plates and his research. Sadly, he is not willing to donate the material to a museum or university. Nonetheless, he is 75 years old, disabled, and his health is rapidly declining. On most days you’ll find Durough sitting in his wheelchair, appearing dazed and lethargic. His home is cluttered with old pianos, books, and stacks of boxes. Will he eventually donate the artifacts?  Only time will tell.

Join us Monday night for this compelling documentary or find it on the free PBS App from Jan. 15 through Feb. 29.

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