A list of places of worship that received grants totaling $4 million from a trust fund designed to protect historic Black churches in the United States was made public on Friday.
The 16th Street Baptist Church Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama, which hosted critical civil rights organizing meetings during Jim Crow segregation in the 1960s and was the scene of a bombing by the Ku Klux Klan that killed four Black girls in 1963, is on the list of 35 grantees.
The fund’s initial recipients include black churches in almost every part of the country, and they received grants ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched its “Preserving Black Churches” program in 2021 to assist ongoing or planned restoration work in historic congregations that are caretakers of cultural artifacts and bear monumental legacies.
After the onset of the coronavirus pandemic three years ago, which reduced the capacity of many houses of worship to serve the public at an unprecedented time of need, some church renovations were jeopardized or severely delayed.
Since before the abolition of slavery, the Black church has served as a focal point for its members’ cultural, social, and educational endeavors.
The church has mediated congregants’ relationships with political power.
Politicians, mostly Democrats, frequently campaign from Black church pulpits.
Other grantees of the action fund include First Bryan Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, one of the oldest Black Baptist churches in the United States; Cory United Methodist Church in Cleveland, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X spoke in 1963 and 1964; and St. Paul Christian Methodist Episcopal, a church located on Lane College’s historically Black campus in Jackson, Tennessee.
Administrators of the action fund said they received proposals for 1,266 Black churches across the United States, with a total of $189 million requested.
The Lilly Endowment Inc., which supports religious, educational, and charitable causes, made a $20 million seed donation to the effort last year.