• Support Preservation of African American Burial Grounds

    June 16, 2023

    Pierce Chapel African Cemetery, Midland, Georgia. Volunteer clean-up day organized by the Hamilton Hood Foundation at Pierce Chapel African Cemetery in Midland, Georgia.

    photo by: Hamilton Hood Foundation

    Pierce Chapel African Cemetery, Midland, Georgia. Volunteer clean-up day organized by the Hamilton Hood Foundation at Pierce Chapel African Cemetery in Midland, Georgia. The work of the Foundation provides a model for other community- and descendant-led efforts to identify, protect, preserve, and interpret historic African American cemeteries across the country.

    Juneteenth (June 19th) marks the day in 1865 when Union Army General Granger issued General Order No. #3 announcing in Galveston the freedom of over 250,000 enslaved people in the state of Texas. Today, we observe Juneteenth in order to recognize and honor that history.

    We’d like to take a moment on this anniversary to highlight the work that is being done to preserve and protect Black burial sites—and share what you can do to help.

    This year, Pierce Chapel African Cemetery was listed as one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023. Established circa 1828, it is one of the oldest burial grounds for Africans enslaved at several plantations in Harris County, Georgia, and their descendants. Estimated to contain up to 500 burials in two acres of land, the cemetery is a landscape of tribute and memory, with archaeological evidence of cultural traditions that trace back to West Africa.

    The cemetery has deteriorated over time and suffered damage due to recent use of heavy construction equipment. The descendant-led Hamilton Hood Foundation is leading efforts to raise awareness about this significant place and preserve Pierce Chapel African Cemetery and its stories for future generations.

    The dedicated volunteers that have been protecting and preserving these burial grounds could soon get additional support. The African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act, passed in December 2022, authorizes the National Park Service to establish a $3 million annual grant program to aid preservation efforts across the country.

    Public advocacy by supporters like you can make a difference, and Black cemeteries, like Pierce Chapel, need your voice now more than ever to ensure the program is fully funded by Congress so the program can be implemented as intended.

    Sign your name to let your elected officials know you support preserving these sacred landscapes to tell the stories of Black America’s unimaginable sacrifice and remarkable achievements. Ask them to support the newly authorized African American Burial Grounds Preservation Program by approving full funding of $3 million in FY 2024 appropriations.

  • African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Receives $20 Million MacKenzie Scott Grant

    June 16, 2021

    Lewis Latimer House Museum, Flushing, New York

    photo by: Lewis Latimer House Museum | Adrian Sas

    On June 15, 2021, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced that she has awarded a grant of $20 million to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The National Trust is one of 286 organizations across the country and around the globe that will receive a total of $2.7 billion in grants from Ms. Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett.

    “This inspiring gift,” said Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the Action Fund, “is an affirmation that our work to elevate the significance of Black culture in American history matters, and that preservation of historic landmarks is a form of equity. We are grateful to Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett for their investment, which scales up our commitment to preserve and tell overlooked stories of African American achievement that are fundamental to the nation itself.”

    Read the press release to learn more, and dive deeper into the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund here.

  • Learn How Preservationists Are Honoring the Legacy of Mary Cardwell Dawson

    February 1, 2021

    In the February 2021 issue of Opera News, learn more about Mary Cardwell Dawson, the founder of the longest-running, all-Black opera company in the United States, and the place where her vision took shape: the National Negro Opera Company house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    Understanding the current condition of the National Negro Opera Company house is critical at this moment. Standing vacant for decades, the building has deteriorated as a result of weather exposure and vandalism, prompting its listing on the 2020 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

    The National Trust has partnered with the NNOC’s owner, Jonnet Solomon, the Young Preservationists Association (YPA), and Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to help save the building. Together they are utilizing a $4,000 Intervention Fund grant awarded by the National Trust to assess the existing building conditions and prepare a report with recommendations and cost estimates for emergency stabilization.

  • Brent Leggs in The Art Newspaper: We Need Monuments Celebrating African American History

    July 3, 2020

    Nina Simone's Childhood Home, a white clapboard house with black trim.

    photo by: Nancy Pierce

    Nina Simone's Childhood Home (a National Treasure) in Tryon, North Carolina.

    Brent Leggs, executive director of the National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, has published a powerful op-ed in The Art Newspaper titled, "US needs monuments celebrating African American history, not Confederate statues."

    Leggs' article from July 3, 2020, outlines how "telling America’s overlooked stories is fundamental to building a true national identity." He advocates for acknowledging the unvarnished history behind Confederate monuments and taking the opportunity to expand the conversation in bold, more inclusive ways. Of note:

    "How should America preserve Confederate monuments so that we never forget their meaning and harm? What’s the role of the African American community, civic leaders, preservationists, artists and funders to envision landscapes of understanding and reconciliation? The purpose of preservation practice is not to stop change, but to offer tools that help a society manage change in ways that do not disconnect it from the legacy of its past. Done right, historic places can foster real healing, true equity and a validation of all Americans and their real history."

    Read Leggs' full essay to learn more about the Action Fund; sites of Black resilience, activism, and achievement; and possible approaches that "represent the best in the human experience."

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