On July 5, 2019, at the 25th annual Essence Festival in New Orleans, the National Trust announced more than $1.6 million in grants to 22 sites and organizations through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Now in its second year, the Action Fund has granted a total of $2.7 million since its launch in November of 2017.
In his announcement from Center Stage at this year’s Essence Festival, Brent Leggs, executive director of the Action Fund, underscored the importance of this work, noting, “The recipients of this funding shine a light on once lived stories and Black culture, some familiar and some yet untold, that weave together the complex story of American history in the United States.”
The Action Fund is a $25 million multi-year national initiative aimed at uplifting the largely overlooked contributions of African Americans by protecting and restoring African American historic sites and uncovering hidden stories of African Americans connected to historic sites across the nation. This year’s awardees include the home of Negro League Baseball phenom Satchel Paige; the Emmett Till Memorial Commission; ‘The Forum’ in Chicago’s Bronzeville; and more.
This year’s funds, provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were awarded to key places and organizations that help the Action Fund achieve its mission of protecting, restoring, and interpreting African American historic sites and uncovering hidden narratives of African Americans and their contribution to the American story. Grants were given across four categories: capacity building, project planning, capital, and programming and interpretation.
“Beyond saving important African American heritage sites, the Action Fund is helping Americans understand more deeply who we are as a nation,” remarked Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander. “We applaud the ongoing work of the Action Fund in calling greater attention to the diversity of American history and lifting up narratives that have been too long neglected or forgotten.”
External review for grant applications was provided by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.