Action Fund raises $10 million toward protecting African American historic places

A fund targeted at preservation of significant places in Black History, like Nina Simone's birthplace in Tryon, N.C., is approaching the halfway point of its $25 million goal

Action Fund
This undated handout photo made available by Nancy Pierce shows the birthplace of jazz singer Nina Simone in Tryon, N.C. The dilapidated wooden cottage in North Carolina that was the birthplace of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone now has the protection of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The trust said in a news release Tuesday, June 19, 2018, that it will develop and find a new use for the house in Tryon where Simone was born in 1933. Last year, four African-American artists purchased the home. (Nancy Pierce via AP)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation launched the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund following the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, in an effort to change the narrative and amplify stories of African American activism and achievement.

READ MORE: ‘Overjoyed’ Jemele Hill ends rollercoaster year with a ring on it

Now the organization has announced that after one year, it’s multi-year $25 million initiative has reached $10 million of its goal, The Baltimore Times reports.

“We are proud of how over this past year we’ve helped to broaden the conversation about the places that matter,” Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a news release.

“Since the launch of the Action Fund, we have seen overwhelming support across the country in saving spaces that tell the full American story.”

The Action Fund has worked to protect and preserve historic sites of African American cultural significance.

This year the Action Fund designated the birthplace of singer Nina Simone in Tryon, N.C., on Juneteenth to celebrate the voice of the American Civil Rights Movement and to honor the hidden voices of Black female performers throughout American history. The American Cultural Heritage Action Fund also awarded a grant to an organization in Richmond, Va., to conduct an economic impact analysis of Shockoe Bottom, the second largest slave trading site in the United States.

“The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has seen remarkable grassroots engagement, in the more than 800 grant applications asking for help protecting African American historic places, and in the tremendous community support at newly-launched National Treasures like the John and Alice Coltrane Home,” said Brent Leggs, director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

“As we embark on year two of the Action Fund,” Leggs explained, “we will continue working to foster a national landscape where every person can see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story.”

READ MORE: Forest Whitaker calls it quits and files for divorce from wife of 22 years

“The Action Fund draws support from a renowned group of leaders in academic, business, government, arts and philanthropy, as well as the continued support of first-year lead funders Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, and others,” Leggs added.

Some 16 grants totaling $1 million were awarded in its first year from the Action fund, the outlet reports. It covered preservation work in communities from Birmingham to the South Side of Chicago, including sites of struggle and strength, according to the announcement.

“The Action Fund grant enabled us to move forward with the goal of transforming the August Wilson House into a community space, a hub of art, memory, and interpretation that will support young artists in Pittsburgh and across the country, and celebrate August Wilson’s legacy,” said Paul A. Ellis, Jr., executive director of the August Wilson House, a grant recipient.

“This house and this community are more than just a place where August lived— they are the inspiration for his plays, and the physical representation of what he was able to accomplish,” he said.

The work will continue in the coming year to uplift diverse communities and to create an inclusive landscape for African Americans.