Classic TV lovers know her as Dr. Huxtable’s smart and elegant wife Clair on The Cosby Show, and today’s generation might only recognize her as the classy but calculating matriarch Diana DuBois on Fox’s hit show Empire.
But she’s recently taken on a new role that is set to ensure that the contributions and advances of African Americans are never forgotten and that untold stories are finally given center stage in American history narratives.
Phylicia Rashad is the ambassador of the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF), a $25 million initiative launched by The National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, the JPB Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.
The multi-year national initiative establishes a grant fund for the protection and restoration of African American historical sites, including the Shockoe Bottom in Richmond and the Fort Huachuca Black Officers’ Club in Arizona, and to address funding gaps for site preservation. The fund will also help to tell once-hidden stories of history-making African Americans and enlighten youth on black history and landmark sites through a program called The National Trust’s Hands-On Preservation Experience. In addition, the fund will back research on the link between the impact of preserving historic sites and the resolution of urban problems that disproportionately affect communities of color.
“There is an opportunity and an obligation for us to step forward boldly and ensure the preservation of places which tell the often-overlooked stories of African Americans and their many contributions to our nation,” Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a news release. “We believe that this fund will be transformative for our country, and we are committed to crafting a narrative that expands our view of history and, ultimately, begins to reconstruct our national identity, while inspiring a new generation of activists to advocate for our diverse historic places.”
Along with Rashad, academic, arts, government, and business leaders will be part of an advisory council for the fund. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, will serve as its chair.
“Without a thorough reckoning with the complex and difficult history of our country, especially when it comes to race, we will not be able to overcome intolerance, injustice, and inequality,” said Walker. “We have an opportunity with this Fund to broaden the American narrative to reflect our remarkably rich and diverse history.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, chartered by Congress nearly 70 years ago, has decades of experience leading the preservation of African American historic sites and widening the tent for underrepresented communities in the professional field of preservation. In the past five years alone, the National Trust leveraged more than $10 million to preserve dozens of important African American sites.
Check out what Rashad has to say about the initiative and why diversifying the stories of American history is importance to her and her family: