January 31, 2024 Blog

In case you missed it, we learned at the beginning of January that the Foundation is the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program from the National Trust for Historic Preservation!

This funding will support ongoing repair and restoration of the exterior shell of the historic First Zion Baptist Church, located on 1030 West Ridge Street in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  The project will address windows, brick masonry and foundation stones, slate shingles, and wood doors. 

“This generous grant enables the Foundation to finally take a giant step forward in rehabilitating this valuable historic resource for our communities,” said Ed Wheeless, Foundation chair. “The Foundation envisions repurposing the building as a community cultural arts center with a permanent exhibit memorializing the Black community that flourished here in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

Since 2017, the Action Fund has raised more than $91 million in philanthropic funding, and serves as the largest U.S. resource dedicated to the preservation of African American historic places.

“The progress we make over the coming year, thanks to this grant, will signal to our communities that this project is real and attainable,” Wheeless added. “We hope all our neighbors in Bolivar and Harpers Ferry are as excited about it as we are.”

“We created the Preserving Black Churches program to ensure the historic Black church’s legacy is told and secured. That these cultural assets can continue to foster community resilience and drive meaningful change in our society,” said Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “We couldn’t be more excited to honor our second round of grantees and ensure that African Americans – and our entire nation – can enjoy an empowered future built on the inspiring foundations of our past.”

“Black churches have been at the forefront of meaningful democratic reform since this nation’s founding. They’re a living testament to the resilience of our ancestors in the face of unimaginably daunting challenges,” said Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., historian, and advisor to the Action Fund. “The heart of our spiritual world is the Black church. These places of worship, these sacred cultural centers, must exist for future generations to understand who we were as a people.”

See the full list of this year’s grantees and site descriptions at https://savingplaces.org/black-churches.

About the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund: African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that works to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American resilience, activism, and achievement. With more than $90 million in funding, the Action Fund is the largest U.S. resource dedicated to the preservation of African American historic places.

To learn more about the mission to tell the full American story, visit https://savingplaces.org/african-american-cultural-heritage

Written by Rachel Meyer