Clayborn Temple Exterior

photo by: Steve Jones

Preservation Magazine, Summer 2020

Grants Through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Will Help 27 Historic Places Tell the Full American Story

For more than a decade the National Trust has been strengthening its capacity to save places related to African American and other underrepresented histories. This work paved the way for creating the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF), the largest preservation campaign ever on behalf of African American history, activism, and achievement.

Since January of 2018, the fund has enabled the National Trust to model innovative preservation approaches, take direct action to protect African American cultural heritage, and conduct critical research exploring how preservation impacts equity, displacement, and affordability. Additionally, AACHAF awards cash grants to projects that preserve Black history sites and stories. To date, the National Trust has received almost 2,000 proposals requesting nearly $190 million in grant funding, and by the end of this year, it will have invested more than $4.3 million in nearly 60 AACHAF preservation projects.

“Later this summer we will announce our 2020 grant recipients, which will include the City of Minneapolis,” says Brent Leggs, AACHAF executive director. “The funding will enable a partnership between the city and the African American community to document significant historic places as a way of healing community divides and offering hope to many.” Clayborn Temple (above)—a church central to the Memphis, Tennessee, Civil Rights protests and the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike—will also receive critical funding.

Past Action Fund grants have supported hiring new staff positions at cultural heritage organizations like the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Mississippi and Weeksville Heritage Center in New York. Grants have also funded much-needed research in places like the historically segregated Westside neighborhood of Las Vegas and Freedom Colonies across Texas. Preservation planning for an HBCU icon called Fountain Hall at Morris Brown College, where W.E.B. Du Bois wrote his seminal work The Souls of Black Folk, was also made possible through this funding.

“Now is the time to elevate the important history imbued in these places and stories,” says Leggs. “With humility and in partnership, we work with communities to expand the American story on behalf of all Americans.” The 2020 list of grantees includes a diverse range of places and overlooked stories that exemplify the richness and complexity of American history.

Dennis Hockman is editor in chief of Preservation magazine. He’s lived in historic apartments and houses all over the United States and knows that all old buildings have stories to tell if you care to find them.

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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