Historic African American sites in Georgia to get preservation grants

Recipients include the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge and historic Athens

Sarah Breedlove, a laundress later known as Madam C.J. Walker, amassed a personal fortune as a beauty industry entrepreneur.

Black history in Georgia is more than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund wants to help the state preserve it.

The fund, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced on Thursday $3 million in support for projects that will help preserve African American landmarks. Five of those projects are in Georgia.

“The recipients of this funding exemplify centuries of African American resilience, activism, and achievement,” Brent Leggs, executive director of the Action Fund, said in a press release. “Some of their stories are known, and some are yet untold. Together they help document the true, complex history of our nation. By preserving these places and telling their stories, preservationists can help craft a more accurate American identity and inspire a commitment to justice.”

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

According to the press release: “By supporting the longevity of the homes of well-known opera singer Marian Anderson in Philadelphia and the first Black girl millionairess Sarah Rector in Kansas City, the legacies of Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., and the Georgia B. Williams birthing center for Black women in Georgia, the Action Fund saves the landmarks that tell timeless stories about the ways African Americans faced their fate with courage, ingenuity, creativity, and genius. These stories help shift the narrative around the value of Black life and correct the

inaccuracy of omission in the American story.”

Here are Georgia’s five recipients and their plans for the grants:

Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Atlanta: Part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge is the former headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where King maintained an office. The lodge was also the location of a Madam C.J. Walker Beauty School and WERD, the first Black owned and programmed radio station. The grant will provide funding for a preservation plan to guide restoration of the building’s character and condition.

Historic Athens: Historic Athens will create a new, full-time director of engagement and African American heritage within historic Athens that prioritizes public programming, community engagement, and preservation planning for African American historic resources.

Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla: Midwives were critical to the health of Black mothers in the Jim Crow era, when hospitals were segregated or nonexistent in some areas. This grant will help rehabilitate the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home (birthing center) and create a Southern African American Midwife Museum, interpretive center and multiuse space.

Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society: Developers and gentrification have long threatened Gullah Geechee land and cultural heritage. This grant will help seed a new emergency fund — known as the Gullah Geechee Legal Defense Fund — to assist Gullah property owners with retaining land ownership and fight forced sales from rising taxes and speculative investors.

St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition: To stimulate heritage-based economic development by Gullah Geechee residents, a new entrepreneurial training program will be developed to educate descendants in historical interpretation, culinary arts and architectural rehabilitation.

You can learn more about projects throughout the country on the National Trust’s website.