2022 African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Recipients Named

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For Detroit’s black community in the mid-20th century, the Blue Bird Inn was a refuge from segregation, a place to enjoy an evening with loved ones and bebop jazz (a style that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s ). The Eldorado Ballroom in Houston once reigned supreme as one of the best venues for live blues and jazz, with an impressive roster of talent including Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and James Brown. The Turf Club, located in the whimsical seaside town of Asbury Park, New Jersey, was a beacon on Springwood Avenue, which ran through the heart of the black community and a once booming shopping and entertainment district.

All three sites are currently abandoned and dilapidated.

But maybe not for long. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington DC announced a $3 million grant to protect and preserve these three sites and 30 others that also preserve African American history and heritage. Funding for the grant is part of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Thanks to continued and ongoing investments from the Mellon Foundation, JPB Foundation, Lilly Endowment and others, the program is now worth $80 million, up $30 million from last year. The fund was founded in 2017 and has invested $12.4 million in 160 locations across the United States.

Blue Bird Inn (Lian Tarver/Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

“The Action Fund’s work aims to tell more inclusive and accurate stories that reflect America’s true history, makeup and identity and to restore and transform the assets of our nation’s built and cultural heritage,” said Justin Garrett Moore, Humanities in Place program manager at Mellon. Foundation. “Through racial, social and economic justice lenses and using the tools of grantmaking, capacity building and advocacy, the National Trust is creating the infrastructure to grow and sustain a movement to preserve key African-American heritage sites and to tell a more complete American story. ”

Executive Director of the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and Senior Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Brent Leggs, added: “At the National Trust, we aim to broaden the public’s understanding of the experience in America, while emphasizing the very urgent need to identify and protect these sites for the benefit of the communities they have long served. These often overlooked places contain aspects of history that must be protected and used to draw inspiration and wisdom for the benefit of all Americans.

dilapidated building
Eldorado Ballroom (Project Row Houses Archive/Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

This year, the National Trust has grouped the projects funded into four categories distinguished by their objective, summarily preservation, organisation, development and education. Below are more specific descriptions of the four categories:

Build capital
The Blue Bird Inn, Eldorado Ballroom, and Turf Club are part of the program’s Building Capital initiative, which involves the restoration and preservation of significant Black History cultural sites; other sites include a number of churches and buildings at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); notably, one of them is Shaw University’s Tyler Hall (the school was one of five beneficiaries of the National Trust’s HBCU cultural heritage stewardship initiative announced earlier this year).

Increase organizational capacity
This initiative will facilitate continued programming and restoration work at a number of sites, including efforts to appoint trustees or maintain a registry. Among the sites is the home of Mamie Till Mobley and Emmett Till, which was named a Chicago landmark earlier this year, following a vigorous campaign by conservationists. The funding will create a project director position to lead a number of heritage initiatives, including furnishing the interior of the house to match the 1955 layout, from when Emmett was there for the last time before being abducted and lynched.

dilapidated building
Turf Club (Jennifer Souder/Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Project planning
Research and planning will be necessary for the preservation and development of many cultural sites. Funding will go towards researching, documenting and creating necessary development plans that will help sites increase their ability to tell stories and stand the test of time.

The funding will help 91-year-old painter Faith Ringgold realize the vision and legacy of her home and studio in Englewood, New Jersey.

brick house on a wide lawn
Faith Ringgold’s house (Grace Matthews/Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

“Part of the vision from the beginning was to leave my home, my studio and my garden, and its vast archive of papers, photographs and art to the foundation, so that it could eventually become a center for research. and a home museum,” Ringgold said. .

teal green and brick house
Medgar Evers House (Jud McCranie_Wikimedia/Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Programming and interpretation
The National Trust will also dedicate a portion of the funding to public education and awareness. Among the recipients is the nonprofit Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute, named after husband and wife civil rights activists. The funding will be used to help the organization launch a program to raise awareness of racial trauma, such as Medgar Evers was murdered in 1963.

A full list of recipients can be found here.

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