Dozens of Black Churches Receive Total of $4 Million for Historic Preservation

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Thirty-one Black churches have received a total of $4 million to help preserve their buildings and the Black history they represent.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the second round of Preserving Black Churches grants from its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund on Monday (Jan. 15), the national holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Along with the funds provided last year, the Action Fund has supported more than 70 historic churches with $8.7 million in grants.

“We created the Preserving Black Churches program to ensure the historic Black church’s legacy is told and secured,” said Brent Leggs, executive director of the fund, in a statement, adding that “these cultural assets can continue to foster community resilience and drive meaningful change in our society.”

Clockwise from top left: Shiloh Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Rev. Dr. Lisa Goods); St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Father Emmanuel Mulenga); Ward Chapel AME Church in Cairo, Illinois. (Photo by E. Charles Photography); Taveau Church in Cordesville, South Carolina. (Photo by Bill Fitzpatrick/ Preservation South Carolina)
Clockwise from top left: Shiloh Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Rev. Dr. Lisa Goods); St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Father Emmanuel Mulenga); Ward Chapel AME Church in Cairo, Illinois. (Photo by E. Charles Photography); Taveau Church in Cordesville, South Carolina. (Photo by Bill Fitzpatrick/ Preservation South Carolina)

This year’s grants, which range from $50,000 to $200,000, will allow congregations to address issues such as mold contamination, demolition, water filtration and deferred maintenance.

Among the recipients this year is Town Clock Church in New Albany, Indiana, which was constructed in 1852 and then named Second Presbyterian Church. It was a station on the Underground Railroad, providing shelter to enslaved people who were fugitives. Funds earmarked for endowment and financial sustainability will be used to maintain 2014 preservation and restoration efforts.

Others include African Methodist Episcopal churches that received capital project grants. For example, Atlanta’s Big Bethel AME Church was the birthplace of Morris Brown College, the first educational institution in Georgia owned completely by African Americans. New Orleans’ St. James AME Church was a gathering site for marchers of the Civil Rights Movement and the headquarters of the Louisiana Native Guards, Black Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., an adviser to the fund, which is supported by Lilly Endowment Inc., welcomed the decisions on the new grant recipients, some of which currently have facilities that are closed due to structural damage.

“The heart of our spiritual world is the Black church,” said Gates in the announcement. “These places of worship, these sacred cultural centers, must exist for future generations to understand who we were as a people.”

The other recipients are:

Receiving planning grants:

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Fort Valley, Georgia

Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Moore’s Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Morrilton, Arkansas

Calvin Memorial Presbyterian Church, Omaha, Nebraska

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

Henderson Chapel AME Zion Church, Rutledge, Tennessee

Ward Chapel AME Church, Cairo, Illinois

Taveau Church, Cordesville, South Carolina

Receiving programming and interpretation grants:

Mt. Zion AME Church, Skillman, New Jersey

Guidance Church of Religious Science, Los Angeles, California

Gather Place (the former African Methodist Episcopal Church of Yardley) in Yardley, Pennsylvania

Receiving organizational capacity grant:

The House of God Church, Nashville, Tennessee

Receiving capital projects grants:

Shiloh Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio

Union Bethel AME Church, Great Falls, Montana

First Zion Baptist Church, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Houston, Texas

Central United Methodist Church, Jackson, Mississippi

Washington Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Parkville, Missouri

Beulah Missionary Baptist Church, Natchez, Mississippi

Jacob’s Chapel AME Church, Mount Laurel, New Jersey

St. Augustine Catholic Church, New Orleans, Louisiana

St. Paul AME Church, Lexington, Kentucky

Thomas Memorial AME Zion Church, Keeseville, New York

Mother Bethel AME Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tabernacle Baptist Church, Selma, Alabama

First Missionary Baptist Church, Thomasville, Georgia

Campbell AME Church, Washington, D.C.

St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church, Augusta, Kentucky

Religion News Service receives funding from Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation.

This story has been updated.

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