In addition to educating Black students, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been a safe ground for Black activism and stories as well as a source of African American pride since the 19th century. Often designed and built by African American architects and students, HBCU campuses are prized landmarks in Black communities that groom young people into world leaders. Despite their pivotal role, many HBCUs are vastly underfunded, leading to deferred maintenance, vacancy, and the threat of demolition. To help preserve the legacy of HBCUs, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit that works to save historic sites, unveiled the Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative.
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, which is a multiyear initiative led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced a $1 million investment to pilot the HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative. According to a statement, the program will “provide technical assistance and fund preservation-based stewardship plans at up to eight HBCU campuses across the country.”
“Only a handful of HBCUs have campus preservation plans that identify their most important historic resources or give direction for their long-term stewardship,” said The National Trust’s President and CEO Paul Edmondson. “HBCU’s are tremendously important institutions in our national life and their assets must be invested in and adapted for modern uses, while also celebrating their imbued legacies and storied past.”
In collaboration with HBCUs, the partnership seeks to empower HBCUs with the resources needed to protect, preserve, and leverage their historic assets. Ultimately, the effort will help ensure that these historic academic institutions can inspire and educate future generations. Other partners in the initiative include the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, J.M. Kaplan Fund, the JPB Foundation, and The Executive Leadership Council.
“HBCUs across the country are both an embodiment of and testament to excellence and perseverance,” according to actress Phylicia Rashad, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Co-Chair and brand ambassador. “All HBCUs connect generations together and serve as both the creators and chroniclers of achievement in America. And yet, too many HBCU campuses need restoration and reinvestment.”
The HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative will fund up to six single-structure and two campus-wide preservation plans during the pilot program. The Initiative’s grant cycle will open in the fall, and eligible HBCUs are encouraged to apply for direct funding to hire qualified consultants to develop stewardship plans, reads the news release.
The National Trust will also support HBCUs by providing technical assistance during the planning process, connecting HBCUs to resources, and recruiting African American design and preservation students, architects, and professionals during the planning and implementation phases.
“The National Endowment for the Humanities is proud to assist the nation’s HBCUs in preserving their historic buildings and campuses through this partnership,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “These institutions have provided opportunities, fostered community, and informed and inspired generations of Black Americans.”
For more information on the HBCU Stewardship Initiative visit, www.savingplaces.org/hbcus.