(RNS) — 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.”
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.