CIRCA is an Official Partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We, like the Trust, understand that old houses (and other sites) are the bedrock of cultural remembrance and understanding. In honor of Black History Month, see how #savingplaces like these is preserving the legacy of Black America – and how you can contribute, too. Photo by Leslie Ryann McKellar
In 2017, @SavingPlaces launched the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a campaign to preserve places that have been overlooked in American history and represent centuries of African American activism, achievement, and resilience. Since then, the Action Fund has raised $70 million and supported more than 200 preservation projects nationally. Today, in addition to asking for your support, we will explore five places where this campaign has had a major impact.
1. Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church – Tulsa, OK
When the prosperous African American community of Greenwood (“Black Wall Street”) was destroyed by a rampaging mob of more than 10,000 racist white residents in 1921, Historic Vernon Chapel AME Church was almost all that was left. Survivors of the Greenwood Massacre rebuilt it, with their names inscribed on the stained-glass windows that the Action Fund has helped stabilize and restore.
Read about how Vernon A.M.E. Church continues its mission over 100 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre, here.
2. McDonogh 19 Elementary School – New Orleans, LA
In 1960, three African American girls integrated McDonogh 19 in the face of white resistance to their presence. A grant from the Action Fund has funded the interpretation of their experience that first day as they waited outside the principal’s office while other students were removed.
3. League of Women for Community Service – Boston, MA
This Action Fund is helping to restore the entry portico of the 1857 brownstone headquarters of the League of Women for Community Service, a historic Black women’s organization. It provided rooms to Black, female college students who were not allowed to stay in dormitories due to segregation, such as Coretta Scott King. Scott King was also courted here by her future husband Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who lived down the street.
4. Hutchinson House – Edisto Island, SC
This rare, intact freedman’s home was built by Henry Hutchinson, son of the formerly enslaved Union soldier James Hutchinson, as a wedding gift for his wife, Rosa Swinton. The home is part of a collection of 14 properties on Edisto Island that tell the stories of African Americans and Gullah Geechee culture between the 17th and 19th centuries. A grant from the Action Fund was instrumental in its restoration.
5. God’s Little Acre – Newport, RI
The largest and most intact Colonial-era African burial ground in the country, where the story of slavery and the European Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is told, God’s Little Acre brings life to the stories of creative survival and perseverance by the first Africans of Newport. The Action Fund provided funding to conserve 40 of its historic headstones.
Black history is American history, and it is our responsibility to cultivate spaces to engage with it.
If you were inspired by these places and the stories they represent, sign up to become part of the @SavingPlaces Action Fund campaign.