A new multi-year initiative to help preserve more African-American historical sites, and address funding gaps in the preservation of current sites, was announced today.
The African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations, will establish a grant fund for protection and restoration. Actress and activist Phylicia Rashad, who previously campaigned to protect the Brainerd Institute in South Carolina, a school established in 1866 for freed slaves, will serve as an advisor and ambassador.
“There is an opportunity and an obligation for us to step forward boldly and ensure the preservation of places which tell the often-overlooked stories of African-Americans and their many contributions to our nation,” said Stephanie Meeks, President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a statement. “We believe that this fund will be transformative for our country, and we are committed to crafting a narrative that expands our view of history and, ultimately, begins to reconstruct our national identity, while inspiring a new generation of activists to advocate for our diverse historic places.”
The nascent initiative will seek $25 million in initial funding, and focus on historical sites and buildings that help tell often-overlooked aspects of the country’s history, as well as stories of overcoming intolerance, injustice, and inequality.
“As the scholar Carl Becker once wrote, history is what the present chooses to remember about the past,” said Patrick Gaspard, vice president of the Open Society Foundations. “The events in Charlottesville this past summer are a stark reminder of how one segment of American society chooses to celebrate a brutal past. We have an opportunity, through this tremendous project, to preserve, protect and cherish another history too often neglected—the vital story of African-Americans and their enormous contributions to the idea of America.”