The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced its support for projects totaling $3 million that will help preserve African American landmarks, including a grant for the League of Women for Community Service in the South End.
With $50 million of funding, the Action Fund is the largest preservation effort ever undertaken to support the longevity of African American historic sites. Today’s announcement represents the largest single disbursement in the Action Fund’s four-year history.
Brent Leggs, executive director of the Action Fund, said, “The recipients of this funding exemplify centuries of African American resilience, activism, and achievement. Some of their stories are known, and some are yet untold. Together they help document the true, complex history of our nation.
By preserving these places and telling their stories, preservationists can help craft a more accurate American identity and inspire a commitment to justice.”
The League of Women for Community Service is located on Massachusetts Avenue in Chester Square. This project will restore the entry portico of the 1857 brownstone headquarters of the League, a historic Black women’s organization. It provided rooms to Black women college students who were not allowed to stay in dormitories due to segregation, such as Coretta Scott King when she attended the Boston Conservatory. Scott King was also courted here by her future husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who lived down the street.
The Action Fund has grown at a blistering pace since its inception in 2017. In just three years it had raised nearly $30 million due to primary support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and The JPB Foundation.
This year the fund nearly doubled in size due to a significant gift by philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, who announced a $20 million grant to the Action Fund. This gift acknowledges the power of preservation as a form of equity and asserts the importance of African American history as a vital force in the American cultural landscape. Scott joins this year’s lead funder The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional gifts from The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, President and Mrs. George W. Bush, the Chapman Foundation, and an anonymous donation in memory of Ahmaud Arbery.
Since its inception in 2017 as a response to the conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, surrounding a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the Action Fund has supported 105 places through its national grant program for a total investment of $7.3 million.