Today the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has announced the 35 historic Black churches across the United States that will benefit from the first round of funding in the Action Fund’s Preserving Black Churches.

The Preserving Black Churches initiative is a $20 million program generously supported by the Lilly Endowment Inc. that launched in late 2021 to revive Black churches and congregations. It is part of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program established in November 2017 dedicated to supporting the preservation and legacy of historic African American places across the country. Beyond churches, the funding initiative has provided grant money for a number of sites, including most recently the Emmett Till house in Chicago and five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

With an endowment of $80 million the Action Fund is the largest funding source in the country committed to preserving the heritage of African American sites. In its first round of grants, the Preserving Black Churches program is divvying up $4 million to support Black churches facing issues such as deferred maintenance, lack of funds, and demolition threats. The funding will support the renovation projects including roof replacements, bell tower restorations, and support future planning and programming efforts. The list spans the country from a place of worship in Anchorage, Alaska, to a New York landmark designed by African American architect George Washington Foster, Jr., to the site of a Ku Klux Klan bombing that killed four girls, to churches that hosted activists and abolitionists such as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Frederick Douglass. Several of the churches were designed and built by members of the churches themselves.

Each of the 35 projects will receive grant money under one of the five categories outlined by the National Trust for Historic Preservation: Building Capital (for restoring cultural assets important to Black history); Increasing Organizational Capacity (funding for hiring staff at nonprofits and historic Black sites); Project Planning and Development (funding for developing plans and fundraising schemes); Programming and Education (for public education and creative interpretation); and Endowment & Financial Sustainability (to increase or establish preservation endowments).

With a congregation that dates back to 1774, this New York City church was designed by African American architect George Washington Foster, Jr. (Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

The 2023 grantees are:

Endowment and Financial Sustainability Grants

16th Street Baptist Church, Inc. — Birmingham, Alabama

First Immanuel Lutheran Church Chicago — Chicago

Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church — New York

Organizational Capacity Grants

Cory United Methodist Church — Cleveland, Ohio

Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception — Norfolk, Virginia

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Leake Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Anchorage, Alaska will use the grant money to his grant will fund the church congregation’s work to replace the roof of its sanctuary. (Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Capital Project Grants

Leake Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church — Anchorage, Alaska

Old Ship African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church — Montgomery, Alabama

Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship — Los Angeles

Old Mount Carmel Baptist Church (Pleasant Street Civil Rights and Cultural Arts Center) — Ocala, Florida

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First Bryan Baptist Church is one of the oldest African American Baptist churches in the United States (it has been in continuous service for 234 years). The funding will go toward projects to restore roofing, plaster, and stained-glass windows. (Jud McCranie/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0.)

First Bryan Baptist Church — Savannah, Georgia

Centerville Second Baptist Church (Historic Preservation Corporation) — Centerville, Iowa

Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church — Chicago

Burks Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church — Paducah, Kentucky

Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church — New Orleans, Louisiana

Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church (Foundation for Appalachian Ohio) — Nelsonville, Ohio

First African Baptist Church — Beaufort, South Carolina

Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church — Galveston, Texas

Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Zion — Seattle

First Missionary Baptist Church — Hayneville, Alabama

Manzanola United Methodist Church — Manzanola, Colorado

St. Rita Catholic Church — Indianapolis, Indiana

Scotland African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church — Potomac, Maryland

Wesley Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church — Akron, Ohio

Halltown Memorial Chapel (Halltown Memorial Chapel Association) — Halltown, West Virginia

St. Stephen African Methodist Episcopal Church — Wilmington, North Carolina

Ebenezer Methodist Church (Lee Haven United Methodist Church) — Townsend, Delaware

Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church was destroyed by Hurricane Ida in 2021 and will use the funding to rebuild its structure. (Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Chubb Chapel United Methodist Church — Cave Spring, Georgia

Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church — Notasulga, Alabama

Mount Zion United Methodist Church — Belton, Texas

Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church — Brooklyn, New York

Black architect Wallace A. Rayfield designed the Old Sardis Baptist Church, which later became the birthplace of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. The church and community center will use the funding to work on a historic structures report. (Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Project Planning Grants

Old Sardis Baptist Church (Old Sardis Revitalization Community Development Corporation) — Birmingham, Alabama (pics)

Euclid Avenue Christian Church (East Mount Zion Baptist Church) —Cleveland, Ohio

The Lighthouse at Lane College — Jackson, Tennessee

Programming and Interpretation Grants

Roberts Chapel Church & Burial Association — Noblesville, Indiana





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