The Oklahoma Eagle Newswire


The National Park Service (NPS) announced $14 million in African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund grants to fund 51 projects across 20 states and the District of Columbia that will preserve sites and history related to the African American struggle for equality in the 20th century.

“These grants will fund important projects that document, interpret, and preserve sites that tell the stories of the African American experience in the pursuit of civil rights,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela, exercising the authority of the Director. “Thanks to the coordination of public and private partners, these projects will help connect Americans to historic places that preserve American history.”

Congress appropriated funding for the African American Civil Rights Grants Program in 2019 through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). The HPF uses revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, providing assistance for a broad range of preservation projects without expending tax dollars. Grant-supported projects include surveys and documentation, interpretation and education, oral histories, architectural services, historic structure reports, planning, and physical preservation.

A Tulsa nonprofit that maintains the historic neighborhood known as “Black Wall Street” has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant.

The National Park Service announced the award as part of $14 million in grants from the African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund.

Greenwood Chamber of Commerce president Freeman Culver said the funding will be vital in preserving the ten original remaining buildings on North Greenwood Avenue.

“Since 1981, there has been nothing done with preserving those buildings,” Culver said. “We are the stewards of those buildings, and we are doing our best.”

Culver said the grant will build upon funding raised with a GoFundMe campaign his group launched in January in anticipation of May of next year, which will mark the 100-year anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which left at least 39 dead and 35 square blocks destroyed.

“It was just a very prosperous place,” Culver said. “It thrived for a long time.”

Culver said he sees preserving what remains of the district as important for both Tulsa’s history and American history.

We have to preserve this history,” he said. “If we don’t preserve it, the next generation won’t learn about it, and won’t learn from it, and won’t learn about the successes we had right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

“From 1923 to 1953, the Americus Colored Hospital was the only medical facility in the South where black medical professionals could practice and serve people of color. This hospital was vital to African Americans during Jim Crow and produced more trained professionals than larger cities like Atlanta, New York, and Chicago. During the Civil Rights Movement in Americus, the building became a Freedom Center and continued to serve the African American community in a new way,” said Georgia Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. “I am pleased this grant will preserve the Colored Hospital so future generations can learn about the strong civil rights history in southwest Georgia.”

“The preservation of these projects is an invaluable investment in the campuses, communities and individuals they serve,” said South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn. “I am pleased that these funds will continue to allow our communities to learn from the Civil Rights Movement and the important role that South Carolina played in making America’s greatness apply more fairly and equitably to all of its citizens.”

“This grant from the National Park Service is great news for the advancement of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot location as a site of historic importance and furthers our efforts to designate it as a National Historic Monument,” said Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis. “I look forward to seeing these funds raise awareness and understanding of the site with the general public.”

“Completed in 1918, Taborian Hall became a centerpiece of the African American community in central Arkansas and, during its heyday, showcased musical greats like Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dizzie Gillespie. In recent decades, Taborian Hall had fallen into disrepair and would have likely been demolished had Kerry McCoy and Friends of Dreamland not purchased it with the vision of restoring it to its former glory,” said Arkansas Congressman French Hill. “I commend the National Park Service for allocating nearly $500,000 to renovate and preserve this site and recognize its importance in the struggle for equality.”

Projects receiving grants this year will preserve resources, places, and stories like the Shepard Library at Stillman College, the Albert Kahn House in Detroit, Michigan, and the Greenwood Center buildings in Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Grant projects also include surveys across the country from Montgomery, Alabama to Muskegon, Michigan to identify lesser-known civil rights sites.

For more information about the grants and the African America Civil Rights Grant Program, visit Applications for $15.5 million in FY2020 funding will be available in the fall of 2020.