January 15, 2024

Grants Help Ensure the Future of Historic Black Churches

What would America be without the Black church? For generations, historic Black churches have served as beacons of hope, progress and reform in America. To honor and protect this legacy, the National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has invested $4 million in grants to 31 historic Black churches across the United States, acknowledging these institutions' widespread impact on society.

In the second round of Preserving Black Churches grants, the Action Fund continues its work not only to help grantees address real and urgent preservation threats such as deferred maintenance and demolition, but also to strengthen their ability to steward, interpret, and fund these invaluable places and the people they serve.

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Learn more about the 2024 grantees below and find the full press release in our press center.


Project Planning

Rev. Rick Lee

Moore's Chapel AME Zion Church
Cleveland, Arkansas

Constructed in 1890, Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church was built by Black people in the community seeking a place of worship and a center for community activity and life. The building is currently not in use due to extensive structural damage. Funding will allow the church to obtain consultants in architectural survey and planning, cemetery conservation, and the development of a viable business plan for preserving the facility and cemetery.

Julie Groce

St. Luke's Episcopal Church (Appleton Episcopal Ministries)
Fort Valley, Georgia

Constructed between 1939 and 1940, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was designed by architect Stanislaw J. Makielski, the exclusive architect for the American Church Institution for Negros. The church is tied to the Episcopal Church’s efforts to develop educational facilities for African Americans in the rural South. Funding will enable the church to analyze three connecting structures to address water infiltration, ADA accessibility, asbestos and lead hazards, and building systems to help them prioritize future projects.

E. Charles Photography

Ward Chapel AME Church (The Cairo Historical Preservation Project, Inc.)
Cairo, Illinois 

Originally built in 1907 (and rebuilt following a fire in 1918), Ward Chapel AME Church has hosted notable social activists throughout its history, including a young John Lewis, who conducted non-violent protest training in the basement, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, who held rallies to bolster community support for downtown economic boycotts demanding equal opportunity. Funding will support the development of a master plan laying out the steps required to move forward with the adaptive reuse and sustainability of the structure.

Ammodramus

Calvin Memorial Presbyterian Church (POC Collaborative Community Center)
Omaha, Nebraska

Constructed in 1910, this Neoclassical Revival style building was originally celebrated as an integrated church but became an all-Black congregation as redlining policies reinforced hysteria around racial integration in the mid-20th century. The building is not currently habitable due to structural damage. Funding will support a preservation feasibility study, including a building inspection and assessment report, and allow the church to engage an architect to determine the next steps.

Grace McGee

St. Peter's United Methodist Church
Oxford, North Carolina

Constructed in 1951, St. Peter’s United Methodist Church is located a block from the major throughway for Black businesses in the region and served as a space for political rallies and meetings. Oxford's first Black nursery school was also run out of the building in the mid-late 1950s. Funding will support a preservation-based assessment of the church and a preservation plan to help guide repair and restoration work.

Bill Fitzpatrick/ Preservation South Carolina

Taveau Church (Preservation South Carolina)
Cordesville, South Carolina

Constructed in 1835, Taveau Church is a rare surviving rural, wood-frame antebellum structure, with its exterior marked by a modest cornice and a simple Doric portico. Before its closure in 1974, the church stood as a sentinel to the trials and accomplishments of its congregants and to the activities within its walls that shaped the character of its people and community through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights eras. Funding will support a plan to restore the building’s structural integrity and engage the community and congregation in long-term sustainability efforts.

Rebecca Dillow

Henderson Chapel AME Zion Church (Clinch-Powell RC&D Council)
Rutledge, Tennessee

Henderson Chapel AME Zion Church was constructed in 1890, and its front gable form represents the architectural style of rural churches built between 1870 and 1950. The church served as a center of cultural activity throughout the Jim Crow Era as the site of lectures, community picnics, and other social activities. The building is not currently in use due to structural issues. Funding will support an architectural assessment and comprehensive preservation plan to restore the chapel so that it may serve as a place of worship, community event space, and tourist attraction.

Julia Ausloos-Bedinger

Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Constructed between 1973 and 1974, Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church was designed by Alonzo Robinson Jr., Wisconsin’s first registered African American architect. The church represents an excellent example of contextual modernism, illustrating the modernist trends of simplification and truth in expression while fitting into its residential surroundings. Funding will support an assessment of the church's history, physical condition, and systems to provide detailed guidance and recommendations for future projects.


Endowment & Financial Sustainability

Joe Glover

Town Clock Church (Friends of the Town Clock Church)
New Albany, Indiana

Built in 1852, Second Presbyterian Church (now Second Baptist Church) helped enslaved people escape in the quest for their freedom as part of the Underground Railroad. Oral tradition claims that the structure's basement has spaces that hid fugitives and that an adjoining tunnel led from the north side of the building to what was once a hotel across the street. The grant will support endowment growth for the perpetual funding of cyclical maintenance for the historic Town Clock Church to ensure that the 2014 restoration and preservation efforts are sustained in the future.


Organizational Capacity Building

LoopNet

The House of God Church (The House of God Church Inc)
Nashville, Tennessee

The House of God Church is the oldest holiness movement in America and was founded in 1903. Inspired to help Black churches sustain their historic architecture and legacy, the grant funding will support the new Preservation Manager staff position to guide the church’s historic preservation activities, build stewardship capacity by aiding The House of God Church, and develop a five-year strategic plan to inform strategies for conserving nearly 80 historic congregations, each with 50+ years of building use.


Programming & Interpretation

Seth Pickens

Guidance Church of Religious Science
Los Angeles, California

Constructed in 1960, the Guidance Church of Religious Science was the first Black Religious Science congregation in Los Angeles. The church building continues to symbolize Black empowerment, community stability, radical welcome, and spiritual empowerment. Funding will support the commission of several interpretive outdoor murals recognizing Black spirituality and migration in Los Angeles and nationwide.

Bruce Daniels/ Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum

Mt. Zion AME Church (Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum)
Skillman, New Jersey

As an African American-led organization housed in the restored Mt. Zion AME Church, the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) - which was built in 1899 - shares the important story of survival of Black faith, food, freedom, culture, creativity, and joy. SSAAM features permanent and rotating exhibits and creates programs associated with Black history locally and nationally. Funding will support reenactments and educational and musical programming to engage the community around faith, culture, and activism.

Shirley Lee Corsey

Yardley's AME Church (Gather Place - Generational Voices Project)
Yardley, Pennsylvania

Constructed in 1877, the Yardley AME Church has been a place of worship and a pillar of support, forging a sense of belonging and religious expression for the borough’s African American community. Funding will enable a project to safeguard this church's crucial history, cultural heritage, and legacy while leveraging oral history interviews connected to this vital historical landmark to counter concerns of cultural displacement.


Capital Projects

Wikimedia Commons/ Nyttend

Tabernacle Baptist Church
Selma, Alabama

Constructed in 1922, Tabernacle Baptist Church, known for its Classical Revival architecture, has four identical quadrantes connected by an open dome and clerestory that brings continuous brilliance to the sanctuary’s interior, reflecting Jesus Christ as The Light of the World. Grant funding will allow the church to replace its deteriorated lead-coated copper dome roof, damaged by severe weather and a January 2023 tornado.

Rev. Terrance McKinley

Campbell AME Church
Washington, D.C.

In 1938, Campbell AME Church was built by Black Washingtonians and served as a base for organizing the Civil Rights movement. The stained glass conveys rich theological meaning with its portrayal of the life of Jesus Christ on one side, the passion of Jesus Christ on the other, and the resurrection above the pulpit. Grant funding will allow the church to restore the existing structure.

Wikimedia Commons/ Warren LeMay

Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Atlanta, Georgia

The oldest predominantly African American congregation in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Big Bethel AME Church was founded in 1847 and is the birthplace of Morris Brown College—the first educational institution in Georgia to be owned and operated entirely by African Americans. The church would host the first National Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1920. The capital project will address time-critical structural repairs and safety concerns due to severe interior and exterior water damage and leaks.

Pastor Jeremy Rich

First Missionary Baptist Church
Thomasville, Georgia

Originally constructed by formerly enslaved congregants between 1890 and 1900, First Missionary Baptist Church is a modest Queen Ann-style building with decorative features such as a metal roof and abundant windows. Many political, cultural, and intellectual luminaries, including Jesse Jackson and Shirley Chisolm, have visited the church. Funding will help the church repair its roof and eaves, which have both sustained severe damage.

Teri Keith

St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church
Augusta, Kentucky

Originally built by a freed Black man and brick mason, John Pattie, the original structure was completed in 1894. The church structure was saved from demolition in 1976 when a local couple was informed that a different buyer would demolish the building unless they purchased it. Since the purchase, the building has remained vacant and is awaiting restoration. Grant funding will support the church's rehabilitation and allow it to be converted into a new Emancipation Heritage Center.

Priscilla Sullivan

Historic St. Paul AME Church
Lexington, Kentucky

St. Paul AME Church opened its doors in 1826 as a place of worship and refuge. According to oral tradition, the church also served as a sanctuary where enslaved people could hide while escaping from bondage. The site is a rare example of Underground Railroad history. The grant will support the church’s building restoration project and efforts to interpret this national story.

Micaela I. Gonzalzles

St. Augustine Catholic Church
New Orleans, Louisiana 

St. Augustine Catholic Church is a cornerstone of Black Catholicism in New Orleans, with a long history as the site of the first Catholic religious congregation created for and by African American women, Sisters of the Presentation, and Sisters of the Holy Family. Funding will support the rehabilitation of exterior masonry and interior plaster repairs.

Rev. Dr. Demetrese D. Phillips

St. James AME Church
New Orleans, Louisiana

Historic St. James Church, founded by a group of freedmen, is the oldest Black Protestant church in New Orleans. The church was the headquarters for the Louisiana Native Guards - Black Union soldiers during the Civil War and was a staging site for marches during the Civil Rights movement. Funding will allow the church to make roof repairs that will stop 18 years of water intrusion in the upper sanctuary balcony and restore the historic exterior look of the church.

G. Sapada Thomas

Central United Methodist Church
Jackson, Mississippi

Founded in 1890 as a part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Central United Methodist Church has been a beacon of hope and at the forefront of religious, social, and civic movements in the Historic Farish Street District of Jackson, Mississippi. Funding will advance full restoration and repair of the roof and exterior beams of the church to sustain the integrity of the building, which was constructed in 1966 by Joseph Collins, a Black contractor and member of the congregation.

Carter Burns/ Historic Natchez Foundation

Beulah Missionary Baptist Church
Natchez, Mississippi

Founded in 1896 by William Rochester, a U.S. Colored Troops veteran and commander-in-chief of the Mississippi and Louisiana Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, Beulah Missionary Baptist Church’s congregation played a pivotal role in organizing for civil rights in the community of Natchez, hosting numerous meetings and rallies. Grant funding will aid in the steeple and window restoration for the 111-year-old structure.

Barbara Luetke

Washington Chapel CME Church (Washington Chapel)
Parkville, Missouri

Initially constructed in 1907 by formerly enslaved citizens and college students, Washington Chapel C.M.E. Church served as a “beacon on a hill" for the African American community in Parkville, Missouri, for over a century. A central gathering place for political meetings, community events, and worship services, the convening of Washington Chapel’s congregation dates to 1870, nearly forty years before the existing church building was constructed. The building is not currently habitable due to roof and structural damage, and grant funding will support vital roof repairs and enable restoration of the church for religious services and other Parkville community events.

Kathy Reed

Union Bethel AME Church
Great Falls, Montana

At the center of the African American community in Central Montana for more than a century, the Union Bethel AME Church congregation began holding regular services in 1890 and built its current church building in 1917. Grant funding for this capital project will repair all existing mortar joints in the brick veneer of the church to address significant weather-related erosion and deterioration.

Jim Williams

Jacob’s Chapel AME Church
Mount Laurel, New Jersey

Jacob’s Chapel AME Church and the Colemantown Meeting House are the last remaining buildings from the African American enclave of Colemantown, established in 1828. Along with the Colemantown Meeting House, Jacobs Chapel Church was a known stop on the Underground Railroad and served as the first worship sanctuary in Colemantown and a schoolhouse for the neighborhood’s Black students. The grant funding will restore the roof, HVAC, and windows.

Reg. Schweitzer/ Neighbors of Watertown Inc.

Thomas Memorial AME Zion Church (Preservation in Color)
Watertown, New York

Constructed in 1909, Thomas Memorial AME Zion Church was the place of worship for a predominantly Black congregation and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church needs structural repair as the roof infrastructure is failing and suffering water damage, making the church nearly uninhabitable. Grant funding will initiate the structural stabilization of the church.

Wikimedia Commons/ Warren LeMay

Shiloh Baptist Church
Cleveland, Ohio

As Cleveland’s oldest Black Baptist Church, Shiloh has been central to the history and identity of the Black Community and served as a beacon of hope from the antebellum to the present day. Funding support will repair and restore the stained-glass dome ceiling of this historic church to eliminate deflecting glass, maintain architectural integrity, and ensure the safety of congregants.

HT Kwashie

Mother Bethel AME Church
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In 1794, formerly enslaved person Richard Allen, a minister, educator, and national leader founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). It was the first Black denomination in the United States. Bishop Allen opened his first church that year, Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia. The current building was dedicated in 1890 and was designed by Hazlehurst and Huckel in the 19th-century Romanesque Revival style. It features a three-story limestone entrance and a four-story tower, with its beauty amplified by intricate stained-glass windows. Grant funding will support exterior rehabilitation of the deteriorated window surfaces and ensure the preservation of its historical and architectural grandeur.

Pastor Lou McElroy

Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
Houston, Texas

Founded in 1866 by nine formerly enslaved men and women—just seven months after Juneteenth—Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is the oldest Black Baptist Church in Houston. It is a living testimony to the once rich and vibrant Fourth Ward Black community erased by urban development in the mid-twentieth century. Funding will support the restoration of the historic stained-glass windows, gothic frames, and sills, which were significantly weathered during Hurricane Ike in 2008 and are prone to leaking.

Ed Wheeless

First Zion Baptist Church (Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Historic Town Foundation)
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

In 1894, the First Zion Baptist Church was constructed in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. A central meeting place for the local Black community that developed alongside Storer College, one of the nation's earliest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the church has been closed and inactive since 1991. The Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Historic Town Foundation purchased the property in 2017 to repurpose the landmark as a cultural arts center. Funding will restore the building envelope and generate needed momentum toward full rehabilitation.

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