Published July 9, 2019

Virginia Humanities is one of twenty-two organizations dedicated to preserving African American history to receive grant support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (Action Fund). As part of the Action Fund’s newest class of grantees, Virginia Humanities was awarded $60,000 to support its work with the Virginia General Assembly African American Cultural Resources (AACR) Task Force. Chaired by Delegate Delores McQuinn and managed by Virginia Humanities African American Programs, the AACR Task Force seeks to promote more inclusive cultural heritage preservation and place-based learning across the Commonwealth. Since 2018, the Action Fund has granted a total of $2.7M to support grassroots preservation efforts to preserve sites across the country.

The AACR Task Force spent the past year listening to local partners in over two dozen communities across Virginia and sponsored four major public programs on preserving and teaching African American history and culture. Now in its second year, the group is focused on addressing the “structural barriers” affecting cultural heritage preservation in Virginia, says Justin Reid, director of African American Programs at Virginia Humanities. “We’re working closely with local communities and other partners, including colleges and universities, to diversify a profession that’s incredibly homogenous,” says Reid. “At the same time, we have to redress the systems and policies that perpetuate inequity in cultural heritage preservation. This grant will help us do that.”

The Action Fund is a $25 million multi-year national initiative aimed at uplifting the largely overlooked contributions of African Americans by protecting and restoring African American historic sites and uncovering hidden stories of African Americans connected to historic sites across the nation. Inaugural year grantees included August Wilson House, John and Alice Coltrane Home, the Wilfandel Club, South Side Community Art Center, and more.

In his announcement from Center Stage at this year’s Essence Festival, Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, underscored the importance of this work, noting, “The recipients of this funding shine a light on once lived stories and Black culture, some familiar and some yet untold, that weave together the complex story of American history in the United States.”

Virginia Humanities was chosen from a pool of more than 462 applications totaling over $40M in requests for support, further illustrating the growing need for additional protection, preservation and restoration of spaces of social and cultural significance to the African American community.

This year’s funds, provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were awarded to key places and organizations that help the Action Fund achieve its mission of protecting, restoring, and interpreting African American historic sites and uncovering hidden narratives of African Americans and their contribution to the American story. Grants are given across four categories: capacity building, project planning, capital, and programming and interpretation.

For full list of grant award recipients visit https://savingplaces.org/2019-action-fund-grant-recipients.

About Virginia Humanities
Virginia Humanities is the state humanities council. We aim to tell the stories of all Virginians—or, better yet, find ways for people to tell their own stories. We want to connect Virginians with their history and culture and, in doing that, help bring us all a bit closer together. Virginia Humanities is headquartered in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, but our work covers the Commonwealth. Founded in 1974, we are one of fifty-six organizations created by the National Endowment for the Humanities to make the humanities available to all Americans. To learn more visit VirginiaHumanities.org.

About the Virginia General Assembly African American Cultural Resources (AACR) Task Force
In May 2017, then Governor Terry McAuliffe signed HB 2296 establishing a bipartisan, statewide task force to assist Virginia Humanities in its efforts to better identify and promote Virginia’s African American cultural heritage resources. The bill was patroned by Delegate Delores McQuinn and unanimously passed by the General Assembly. The Task Force is comprised of several statewide organizations, including Preservation Virginia, Virginia Africana Associates, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Virginia Humanities, and Virginia Tourism.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. SavingPlaces.org | @savingplaces

National Trust Contact: Ruth McBain, Public Affairs Manager, National Trust for Historic Preservation Phone: 603-359-2503 Email: rmcbain@savingplaces.org

The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a multi-year initiative led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American achievement and activism. savingplaces.org/actionfund

Vanessa Adkins, right, is apprenticing under her cousin Jessica Canaday Stewart learning the finer points of traditional Chickahominy dancing. Photos taken at the Fall Festival and Pow Wow in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

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