Conserving Black Modernism

In the 20th century, Black architects and designers helped shape the modern architecture movement in the United States by innovating, experimenting, and pushing the limits of how people interact with the built environment. Yet their contributions have been largely overlooked and undervalued, and as a result, many Black Modernist pioneers remain invisible today.

Conserving Black Modernism is a $3.1 million grant partnership between the Getty Foundation and the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Its focus: to preserve modern architecture by Black architects and designers. The program identifies Modernist historic sites and enables planning, professional training, and storytelling to sustain these places and celebrate the work of these architects, long term.

Applications for the next round were due February 15, 2024.

Charles McAfee Swimming Pool and Pool House
City of Wichita | Wichita, Kansas

Constructed in 1969, the Charles McAfee Pool House, with its distinctive modular shade structures, was designed by Black architect Charles McAfee, one of the founding members of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). Funding will go towards developing a preservation plan to guide the site’s future maintenance and long-term care.

Watts Happening Cultural Center
City of Los Angeles | Los Angeles, California

A design collaboration between African American architects Robert Kennard and Arthur Silvers, the Watts Happening Cultural Center is a centerpiece for Black arts and culture in the Watts neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Funding will enable the development of a Historic Structure Report and preservation plan to guide future rehabilitation and programming for this cultural anchor, home of the historic Mafundi Institute and other community organizations.

Carson City Hall Building
City of Carson | Carson, California

The Spanish Rancho- and Japanese-influenced Carson City Hall, with its organic, nautical-inspired forms, was designed by Black architect Robert Kennard, whose firm is the oldest Black American architectural firm in Los Angeles. A Historic Structure Report will provide information to address the preservation needs of the building and landscape as well as enhance public educational programming to raise awareness about the site’s importance.

First Baptist Church-West
First Baptist Church-West Community Services Association | Charlotte, North Carolina

Recognized as the oldest Black Baptist church in Charlotte, North Carolina, First Baptist Church-West was designed by Harvey Gantt, the first Black Mayor of Charlotte and the first African American student admitted to Clemson University. A comprehensive plan will allow the history of the sanctuary to be preserved with necessary repairs to the roof and baptismal area.

Fourth Baptist Church’s Educational Wing
Fourth Baptist Church | Richmond, Virginia

Established in 1859, Fourth Baptist Church is one of the oldest Black congregations in Virginia. The church’s Modernist educational wing was designed by Ethel Bailey Furman, the earliest known Black woman architect in Virginia. Furman was self-taught and designed an estimated two hundred residences and churches in Virginia as well as two churches in Liberia. A Historic Structure Report with limited capital repairs will give the congregation the information they need to preserve the educational wing and allow future generations to learn about Furman’s trailblazing legacy.

Morgan State University’s Jenkins Hall
Morgan State University | Baltimore, Maryland

Named after a former president of the University, Jenkins Hall was designed by Louis Edwin Fry, the first African American to receive a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard. Morgan State University will complete a conservation management plan and reuse study to determine the optimal future use for the building while preserving its monumental history.

Second Baptist Church of Detroit’s Education Building
Second Baptist Church of Detroit | Detroit, Michigan

Second Baptist Church of Detroit is home to the oldest Black congregation in Michigan. Established in 1836, the church played a significant role in the social and political lives of generations of Black Detroit residents. Renowned Black architect Nathan Johnson designed the Modernist education building in 1968, which allowed the congregation to further its educational impact. A comprehensive building assessment with limited capital repairs will equip the congregation with the necessary framework to preserve the educational building for generations to come.

Zion Baptist Church
Zion Baptist Church | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Renowned Black architect Walter Livingston, Jr. designed Zion Baptist Church in the early 1970s. Characterized by its dramatic clerestory walls composed of colorful staggered glass panels that rise above the brick first story, the church embodies a deep civil rights history, having been led by civil rights leader Reverend Leon Sullivan. A comprehensive building assessment and preservation plan will provide a roadmap for the protection and maintenance of this significant historic church and community treasure.

More About Conserving Black Modernism

As part of the Action Fund’s national grant program, Conserving Black Modernism grant applications are managed by the National Trust, with the first round of grantees announced in June 2023. The program extends the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern initiative to add support for building preservation, and overall assists with convenings, education, and partnerships to strengthen protection for Black Modernist sites.

By highlighting the stories of leading Black Modernist architects who contributed innovative designs and architectural creativity to the American landscape, Conserving Black Modernism protects and recognizes these architects’ collective and individual works for a new generation.

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