Press Release | Washington, DC | July 30, 2020

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative

National Trust launches effort to support historic preservation of HBCUs

Through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, J.M. Kaplan Fund, the JPB Foundation, and The Executive Leadership Council will invest $1 million to pilot the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative. This new program will provide technical assistance and fund preservation-based stewardship plans at up to eight HBCU campuses across the country. A stewardship plan defines a preservation solution and course of action for the future conservation and reuse of a historic building, landscape, or campus. In collaboration with HBCUs, the partnership seeks to empower HBCUs leaders with the resources to protect, preserve, and leverage their historic assets, ensuring these academic institutions and symbols of African American pride are preserved to inspire and educate future generations.

According to the Action Fund’s Co-Chair and Brand Ambassador, Phylicia Rashad, “HBCUs across the country are both an embodiment of and testament to excellence and perseverance. All HBCUs connect generations together and serve as both the creators and chroniclers of achievement in America. And yet, too many HBCU campuses need restoration and reinvestment.”

Since their founding in the 1830s, the number of HBCUs have grown into 105 Congressionally designated schools that tell the remarkable story of African American activism and the fight for education equality. These campuses and landscapes—of which many were designed and built by African American architects and students—display ingenuity and craftsmanship, and they serve as landmarks in the communities that surround and support these institutions. Despite this pivotal role, the preservation of HBCUs is often overlooked and vastly underfunded, leading to deferred maintenance, vacancy, and the threat of demolition to many significant historic buildings.

The National Trust’s President and CEO, Paul Edmondson, stated: “Only a handful of HBCUs have campus preservation plans that identify their most important historic resources or give direction for their long-term stewardship. HBCU’s are tremendously important institutions in our national life and their assets must be invested in and adapted for modern uses, while also celebrating their imbued legacies and storied past.”

To address this need, the HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative will fund up to six single-structure and two campus-wide preservation plans during the pilot program. The Initiative’s grant cycle will open in the fall, and eligible HBCUs are encouraged to apply for direct funding to hire qualified consultants to develop stewardship plans. The National Trust will further support HBCUs by providing technical assistance during the planning process, connecting HBCUs to resources, and encouraging the engagement of African American design and preservation students, architects, and professionals during the planning and implementation phases. A community of esteemed national leaders in campus planning, architecture, and landscape design will advise the National Trust as a part of the Initiative’s Advisory Committee.

"The National Endowment for the Humanities is proud to assist the nation's HBCUs in preserving their historic buildings and campuses through this partnership," said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. "These institutions have provided opportunities, fostered community, and informed and inspired generations of Black Americans. As we prepare to mark the 250th anniversary of our country's founding in 2026, it is a fitting moment to celebrate and protect these great cultural assets."

Since listing HBCUs as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered in 1998, the National Trust has advocated and worked to enhance the stewardship capacity of HBCUs, while also raising national awareness of their significance and the ongoing threats of demolition, deferred maintenance, and insufficient funding. With the HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative, the National Trust and its partners will expand the leadership and preservation capacity of HBCUs who steward some of the most diverse and exceptional collections of historic assets in the world. For more information on the HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative visit, www.savingplaces.org/hbcus.

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About the National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places. Visit savingplaces.org.

About the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a multi-year initiative led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, the JPB Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American achievement and activism. Visit savingplaces.org/actionfund.

About the National Endowment for Humanities
National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
SavingPlaces.org | @savingplaces

Join the movement to save and sustain historic African American places. The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will help every American see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story and national cultural landscape.

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