x

Society

Fund to Preserve, Assist Black Churches Gets $20M Donation

January 17, 2022

BIRMINGHAM, Ala — A new effort to preserve historic Black churches in the United States has received a $20 million donation that will go to help congregations including one that was slammed during the tornado that killed more than 20 people in Mayfield, Kentucky, last month.

Lilly Endowment Inc., which supports religious, educational and charitable causes, contributed the money to the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund as seed funding for the Preserving Black Churches Project, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which launched the fund.

The announcement about the donation from the Lilly Endowment was timed to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday on Monday.

Rather than simply replacing broken windows or straightening rafters, the project will provide assistance with things including asset management and helping historic churches tell their own stories, said Brent Leggs, executive director of the fund.

St. James AME Church, founded in 1868 just three years after the Civil War and crumpled by the Mayfield twister, will receive $100,000 as the first recipient of the project’s special emergency funding, Leggs said.

With its sanctuary virtually destroyed and only 15 or so active members, all of whom are older, St. James AME needs all the help it can get, said the Rev. Ralph Johnson, presiding elder of a church district that includes the congregation. Black churches served a vital role after the war ended and Black people no longer were considered the property of white people.

“Once the slaves were freed one of the things they wanted to start was a church home. They wanted to work out their spiritual salvation and have a place to congregate, and they also were used as schools and other things,” he said.

Black churches have been a key element of the African American community through generations of faith and struggle, and preserving them isn’t just a brick-and-mortar issue but one of civil rights and racial justice, Leggs said in an interview.

“Historically Black churches deserve the same admiration and stewardship as the National Cathedral in Washington or New York’s Trinity Church,” he said. Trinity, where Alexander Hamilton and other historic figures are buried, was near Ground Zero and became a national touchstone after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In all, the project plans to assist more than 50 Black churches nationwide over the next three years, including some that are vacant or set for demolition or are struggling with inadequate funding, aging members and dwindling membership. While active congregations are the main priority, funding can also go to old church buildings that now house projects like community centers or treatment programs, Leggs said.

“It still stewards the legacy of the Black church but for a new purpose,” he said.

The fund previously has assisted congregations including Mother Emmanuel AME Church, where white supremacist killed nine parishioners during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, and Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, a stalwart of the civil rights movement which was bombed in the 1950s.

The Action Fund, which has raised more than $70 million, has assisted with more than 200 preservation projects nationally. It was started by the National Trust for Historic Preservation after clashes between white supremacists and protesters during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

The fund calls itself the largest-ever attempt to preserve sites linked to African American history.

RELATED

PERTH AMBOY — People are asking questions about a storm protection proposal for New York and New Jersey that would be among the most massive and costly flood control projects ever done in America.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Mitsotakis: Today’s Bill Comes to Define a New Field in Which Everyone Should Move

ATHENS - At the end of August 2022, I announced a legislative initative for the upgrading and modernisation of the protection, the operation of the security agencies and the operation of the communications and after the change in National Intelligence Service's (EYP) leadership and the establishment of double check to the legal intrusions," stated Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addressing the parliament on Thursday during the debate on Justice Minstry's bill on the lifting of the communications confidentiality, cybersecurity and protection of the citizens' personal data.

The holiday season is swiftly upon us: gingerbread houses, eggnog, and festive parties with our nearest and dearest.

PERTH AMBOY — People are asking questions about a storm protection proposal for New York and New Jersey that would be among the most massive and costly flood control projects ever done in America.

NEW YORK. A delegation of the Diaspora Sector of Greece’s ruling New Democracy party visited New York City December 1-4.

WASHINGTON — The House gave final approval Thursday to legislation protecting same-sex marriages, a monumental step in a decadeslong battle for nationwide recognition of such unions that reflects a stunning turnaround in societal attitudes.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.