National Trust for Historic Preservation Awards $1M in Grants To Preserve Historical Places, Uncover Untold Stories of Hidden Figures in Black History & More
Awardees are First Recipients of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s Effort to Preserve Historically Significant Places Across the Country That Fully Reflect the American Story
Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its first class of grant award recipients in conjunction with the newly established African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans. 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. As part of this mission, the National Trust’s Action Fund awarded a total of more than $1 million in grants to support grassroots efforts to preserve sites across the country. Grants were given across four categories: capacity building, project planning, capital, and programming and interpretation.
“We hope this inaugural round of grants will both fill a critical funding gap for preservation of African American sites and serve as a motivator for others who are interested in saving diverse places that expand our national identity,” said Stephanie Meeks, president & CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “With our partners, we are thrilled to help inspire more people to advocate for these very important historic spaces.”
The inaugural class of 2018 grantees span the United States, from African American homesteader sites across the Great Plains to Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, women’s history sites such as the Wilfandel Club in Los Angeles, and sites of the Southern fight for civil rights in Birmingham. 830 applications, totaling nearly $91 million in requests for support, were submitted to the Action Fund, further illustrating the significant need for additional protection, preservation, and restoration of spaces of social and cultural significance to the African American community. External review for grant applications was provided by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and National Organization of Minority Architects.
“The black experience in the United States is more than just one story; it is a tapestry of countless narratives and experiences we must honor and preserve,” said Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard and Action Fund Advisory Council Member. “The Action Fund grant recipients help tell a more complete chronicle of our ancestors. Their hardship, struggle, achievement, and success transformed our nation, and set precedents for the activism we are still seeing in the face of inequality today.”
Today’s announcement was made by Brent Leggs, director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, from Center Stage at Essence Festival, where he also shared details about other places of African American achievement, activism, and community where the National Trust is working to make an impact.
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund was launched in November 2017 and is the largest preservation campaign undertaken by a national nonprofit on behalf of African American historic places. The National Trust’s Action Fund is supported by a number of partners including the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, The JPB Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, serves as a co-chair of the advisory council along with celebrated actress and director Phylicia Rashad, who also serves as an ambassador to the Action Fund’s efforts.
With a fundraising goal of $25 million over five years, the National Trust will support preservation projects and organizations across the country that are working to tell the nation’s full history. In addition to providing grants to tell the African American story for historic sites across the country, the National Trust will empower youth through its Hands-On Preservation Experience program (HOPE Crew), research preservation’s impact on contemporary urban problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, and advocate for preservation funding for underrepresented communities.
- August Wilson House (Daisy Wilson Artists Community, Inc.) – Pittsburgh, PA. The August Wilson House was the childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, who is known for depicting the 20th-century African American experience through his work. Although the house is currently empty, programming actively occurs around it, from performances to celebrations of Wilson’s life and work.
- African American Homesteader Sites (University of Nebraska Center for Great Plains Studies) – Various: NM, CO, NE, KS, SD. Located across the Great Plains, these six communities, built through use of the Homestead Act, were places of black struggle, hardship, endurance, joy, and triumph. At each site African Americans sought safety and found economic opportunity, created a vital community, and educated their children to lead lives of accomplishment and personal fulfillment.
- Buffalo Soldiers at Yosemite (Yosemite National Park) – Yosemite, CA. Between 1891 and 1913 approximately 500 Buffalo Soldiers, the legendary African American cavalry units who served throughout the West, served in Yosemite National Park as well as nearby Sequoia National Park.
- Civil Rights Sites of Birmingham (City of Birmingham) – Birmingham, AL. These sites, including the 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, and Colored Masonic Temple, are sites where Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and Foot Soldiers broke the back of segregation and changed the world.
- Freedom House Museum and Virginia National Urban League Headquarters (Office of Historic Alexandria & Northern Virginia Urban League) – Alexandria, VA. Located in the basement level of one of the largest and most infamous slave trading operations in the world, the museum tells the story of the Virginia slave trade. The building is now owned by the Virginia National Urban League.
- The Grand Old Lady (National Association of Colored Women’s Club, Inc. and Youth Affiliates) – Washington, DC. Purchased in 1954 by the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs Inc. (NACWC), The Grand Old Lady is the first permanent location of the NACWC, where it continues as the home for its administrative offices and historic documents and artifacts as well as a space for special events and meeting space for the D.C. club. The NACWC, founded by Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, Harriet Tubman, and others, is seen by many as the founding organization for the black preservation movement, when in 1917 they appealed to citizens of Washington, D.C. to save Cedar Hill, the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
- Historic Roxbury (Roxbury Cultural District) – Boston, MA. Roxbury’s historic places and landscape hold a rich history of the neighborhood’s 20th- and 21st-century African American cultural heritage including strong ties to both jazz and civil rights history. The neighborhood contains significant sites including Dudley Station, 1767 Milestone, Hibernian Hall, Dillaway-Thomas House, and Eliot Burying Ground.
- John and Alice Coltrane Home (Friends of the Coltrane Home) – Huntington, NY. The former home of one of the most acclaimed and influential American jazz artists, saxophonist John Coltrane, and his wife Alice, a much-admired jazz musician in her own right, the house is a modest 1952 ranch-style house in the Dix Hills section of Huntington, NY where Coltrane wrote his iconic masterpiece A Love Supreme.
- Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School (The Madison County Education Foundation and Historic Anderson Rosenwald Rehabilitation Project) – Marshall, NC. In 1928, this two-room school building was constructed with the assistance of Rosenwald funds. The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School is an example of the historic Rosenwald schools program, recognized as one of the most important partnerships to advance African American education in the early 20th century.
- Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses (Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation/Mary and Eliza Freeman Center) – Bridgeport, CT. Widely considered the oldest houses built by African Americans in Connecticut, the Freeman Houses help to tell the unique story of the free black community in the North prior to the Civil War. The houses have been vacant for many years and are badly deteriorating.
- Mountain View Black Officers Club (Dunbar Coalition, Inc.) – Fort Huachuca, AZ. Completed in 1942, now vacant, the Mountain View Officers’ Club is one of only two documented World War II-era African American officers’ clubs in the U.S. Army. As one of the last-remaining structures of its kind in the United States, it remains central to understanding both the complex history of the African American military experience and large-scale war mobilization efforts.
- Shockoe Bottom (Preservation Virginia) – Richmond, VA. A national center of the U.S slave trade in the 19th-century, Shockoe Bottom was home to a collection of auction houses, offices, slave jails, and residences of the prominent slave traders. Today, much of that history has since been razed and paved over, its archaeological resources largely unexcavated, making Shockoe Bottom an internationally significant opportunity for interpretation as a Site of Conscience.
- South Side Community Art Center (South Side Community Art Center) – Chicago, IL. South Side Community Art Center, a groundbreaking cultural institution in the South Side of Chicago, was instrumental in launching the careers of many nationally known African American artists at a time when few art galleries would show African American work. More than just a gallery, the center provided a place for artists to teach and learn.
- Tuskegee University Rosenwald School Program (Tuskegee University Department of Architecture) – Tuskegee, AL. In 1881, Hampton Institute graduate and former slave Booker T. Washington was assigned the role of establishing a school without land, faculty, or students. From its humble beginnings in one room near Butler Chapel AME Zion Church in Tuskegee, AL, Tuskegee University's campus was built into a world-renowned institution. Tuskegee University is working to teach preservation trades to a new generation, continuing the legacy of Booker T. Washington, and creating a new generation of black architects and preservationists.
- Weeksville’s Hunterfly Row Houses (Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford Stuyvesant History) – Brooklyn, NY. Weeksville, one of the first villages settled by free African Americans, was founded by James Weeks, an African American longshoreman and former slave, who purchased the land in the 1830s. Over 500 people lived in the community, which had its own churches, schools, and businesses.
- Wilfandel Clubhouse (Wilfandel Club, Inc.) – Los Angeles, CA. The oldest African American women's club in Los Angeles, The Wilfandel Club was founded in 1945 by black women in response to segregation that limited access to public facilities. Along with 50 friends, Fannie Williams and Della Williams, wife of architect Paul Williams, raised funds to buy a site that offered all races an affordable venue for various gatherings.
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. To learn more, visit: www.savingplaces.org/ActionFund.