Federal grants for church preservation include Alabama

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has listed Birmingham’s Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church for preservation grants. The group includes 35 places of worship to receive grants totaling $4 million. The Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Alabama was the site of important civil rights organization meetings held during Jim Crow’s segregation of the 1960s. This is also where four black girls were killed after a bomb attack by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1963. The fund launched its church program in 2021 to support ongoing or planned restoration work in historic communities that care for cultural artifacts and bear monumental legacies. Black churches in almost every region of the United States are among the first recipients of the fund, receiving grants ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund launched its Preserving Black Churches program in 2021 to support ongoing or planned restoration work in historic communities that care for cultural artifacts and bear monumental legacies. Some church renovations were jeopardized or severely postponed three years ago following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, limiting the capacity of many places of worship to serve the public during an unprecedented time of need.

Many black churches, both historic and modern, face challenges related to delayed renovation, insufficient funds for regular maintenance, and threatened demolition due to public danger.

Even before the abolition of slavery, the Black Church was an epicenter for the cultural, social, and educational aspirations of its members. The church has also played a role in mediating parishioners’ relationship with political power. It is not uncommon for politicians, mostly Democrats, to campaign from black pulpits.

Other Action Fund grantees include First Bryan Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, which is recognized as one of the oldest black Baptist churches in the United States; Cory United Methodist Church in Cleveland, where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X spoke in 1963 and 1964; and St. Paul Christian Methodist Episcopal, a church on the historically black Lane College campus in Jackson, Tennessee. Action fund administrators said they had received proposals for 1,266 black churches across the US, with a total of $189 million in funding requested. The effort is supported by a $20 million seed donation received last year from Lilly Endowment Inc., which supports religious, educational and charitable causes.

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