The National Trust announces five grantees of its HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative

Big Plan On Campus

The National Trust announces five grantees of its HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative

Coleman Library at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. (Ebyabe/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation today announced that five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been awarded more than $650,000 in grant funds as part of its $3.2 million HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative. The program is part of the National Trust’s larger African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (you can view the 40 grantees of the 2021 Action Fund here) launched in 2020 in partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for Humanities, Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, J.M. Kaplan Fund, and the Executive Leadership Council.

As noted in a news release from the National Trust, the initiative is geared to “empower HBCUs with resources to protect, preserve and leverage their historic campuses, buildings, and landscapes, ensuring these symbols of African American excellence and American achievement are preserved to inspire and educate future generations.”

Two different kinds of grants are awarded as part of the program: $150,000 grants earmarked for the campus-wide cultural stewardship plans and $60,000 planning grants for the preservation of individual historic buildings or landmarks located on or associated with an HBCU campus.

Spanning four states, the five awardees are:

  • Florida A&M University | Tallahassee, Florida
  • Johnson C. Smith University | Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Rust College | Holly Springs, Mississippi
  • Shaw University | Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Voorhees College | Denmark, South Carolina

All grants are for the development of campus-wide campus stewardship plans except for Johnson C. Smith University, which was awarded funds to develop a preservation plan for its historic quad. Founded in 1867 as the Biddle Memorial Institute, the university is one of the oldest HBCUs in North Carolina.

We appreciate the support of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to assist the University in furthering [the] preservation of landmark buildings on our campus,” said Dr. Larry Robinson, president of Florida A&M University, which is the third-oldest campus in the 12-school Florida State University System and the third-largest HBCU in the country by enrollment. “The planning grant will allow the faculty, staff, and students across the disciplines of architecture, engineering and the humanities to collaborate in ways that highlight the national impact of Johnathan C. Gibbs, Lucy Moten and Andrew Carnegie and the buildings named in their honor. They also will help preserve the history of the Civil Rights Movement on our campus where iconic figures like Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marian Anderson and others changed American history.”

In addition to the planning grant, each of the aforementioned HBCUs will receive support through the HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative to initiate a “paid student professional development opportunity” in which one student from each campus in question will work alongside a larger project team of architects, engineers, and consultants to develop a stewardship plan. As noted by the National Trust, these positions will “support building a more diverse and equitable field of African American preservationists.”

To date, the Action Fund has partnered with a total of 13 HBCUs and funded six campus-wide and seven individual-building plans. Per the National Trust, there are currently 105 active HBCUs, many of which boast historic campuses built and designed by Black architects, planners, and students. In 1998, HBCUs as a collective whole were included on the National Trust’s annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Since then, the organization says it has “advocated and worked to strengthen the stewardship capacity of HBCUs, while also raising national awareness of their significance.”

The previous eight HBCUs to be awarded grants through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund include Benedict College (Columbia, South Carolina), Jackson State University (Jackson, Mississippi), Lane College (Jackson, Tennessee), Morgan State University (Baltimore), Philander Smith College (Little Rock, Arkansas), Spelman College (Atlanta), Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, Alabama), and Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, Alabama).

“These grants are significant in light of the recent threat to HBCU campuses,” said Brent Leggs, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at the National Trust, in a statement. “Preservation is the strategic counterpoint to centuries of erasure, and it underscores the critical nature of the African American contribution to our nation. Without the doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals HCBUs have produced, the American story would not be the same. The Action Fund’s work to preserve the legacies of intellect, activism, and enlightenment on these campuses will inspire future generations of all Americans to believe that, despite the challenge, they too can overcome.”

More information about the HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative can be found here.