Walnut Cove Colored School, one of three NC landmarks, awarded preservation grant

The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced its support for projects totaling $3 million that will help preserve African American landmarks.

Three of the grant recipients are based in North Carolina, which includes Walnut Cove Colored School (Walnut Cove, North Carolina) to honor its 100-year legacy. The school was built in 1921, starting out as a five-classroom Rosenwald School.

The Rosenwald School project built more than 5,000 schools, shops, and teacher homes in the United States, primarily for the education of African-American children in the South during the early 20th century.

The project was the product of the partnership of Julius Rosenwald, a Jewish-American clothier who became part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company and the African-American leader, educator, and philanthropist Booker T. Washington, who was president of the Tuskegee Institute.

The building measures approximately 49 feet wide by 73 feet deep and rests on a brick foundation. It housed a school until 1952, and was later renovated for use as a senior citizens’ community center.

With $50 million in funding, the Action Fund is the largest preservation effort ever undertaken to support the longevity of African American historic sites.

This is the largest single disbursement in the Action Fund’s four-year history.

“The recipients of this funding exemplify centuries of African American resilience, activism, and achievement. Some of their stories are known, and some are yet untold,” said Brent Leggs, executive director of the Action Fund. “Together they help document the true, complex history of our nation”.

Over the past three years, Action Fund has raised nearly $30 million due to primary support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and The JPB Foundation.

This year the fund nearly doubled in size, due to a significant gift by philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, who announced a $20 million grant to the Action Fund.

“The Action Fund has become the largest resource in American history dedicated to the preservation of African American architectural landmarks,” said Lonnie Bunch, the first African American and first historian to serve as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Since its inception in 2017 as a response to the conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, surrounding a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the Action Fund has supported 105 places through its national grant program for a total investment of $7.3 million.

“We are delighted that the Action Fund continues to affirm the centrality of Black voices and experiences to historical preservation in the United States, and to broaden public awareness of the significance of these landmarks,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “The 2021 grantees—which range from museums and public libraries to theaters, historic churches, and universities—represent vital cultural sites that enrich our cities, small towns, and rural communities, and that serve as a testament to the fortitude and ingenuity of the African Americans who created them.”

The Hayti Heritage Center in Durham and North Carolina African American Heritage Commission in Raleigh were two more North Carolina recipients.

The Hayti Heritage Center, a cultural arts and arts education venue, is housed in the historic St. Joseph’s AME Church in Durham, which was constructed in 1891. The grant will help repair its stained-glass windows, doors, and original wooden pews.

The North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, working in conjunction with the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, will document and map Green Book sites in both states, developing a model for a national Green Book sites marker and digital mapping program.

This year’s grants were given across four categories: capacity building, project planning, capital, and programming and interpretation.

To learn more about the Action Fund and the 2021 grantees, go to www.savingplaces.org/actionfund.

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