In recognition of Juneteenth, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund announced $3.8 million in new grants to preserve forty African American history sites, including four in Virginia, that reflect Black activism, achievement, and resilience to tell a more complete American story.
The Cape Charles Rosenwald School, constructed in 1929, is a rare example of a brick, four-teacher Rosenwald school. Rosenwald schools were built through a partnership between Booker T. Washington and businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald to narrow racial schooling gaps in the South by constructing better, more-accessible schools for African Americans. Rosenwald funds helped build 382 schools and support buildings in seventy-nine Virginia counties between 1917 and 1932. In 2002, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed all surviving Rosenwald schools on its list of America’s most endangered historic sites. (Take a virtual tour of a Rosenwald school.)
The Calfee Training School, which educated Black children in Pulaski from 1894 to 1966, is part of the history of school integration and equity in the United States. The current building was built by the Public Works Administration in 1939 in part due to the advocacy of Chauncey Depew Harmon, who served as principal from 1938–1939. He participated in one of the earliest campaigns for equalization of Black and white teacher salaries and facilities. In 1947, residents of Pulaski successfully sued the Pulaski County School Board over unequal school facilities and were represented by Oliver W. Hill and Spottswood Robinson in their campaign to eliminate school inequalities before they turned their attention to school desegregation.
Richmond’s Fourth Baptist Church, one of the oldest Black Baptist churches in Virginia, received a grant through the new Conserving Black Modernism program to preserve its modernist education wing, which was designed by Ethel Bailey Furman, the earliest known Black woman architect in Virginia. Furman was self-taught and designed an estimated two hundred residences and churches in Virginia, as well as two churches in Liberia.
Hampton University, which was founded in 1868 as the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute with the mission to educate the formally enslaved and their children, and later Native Americans, received a grant under the HBUC Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative for a historic landscape plan to inform landscape preservation and better facilitate storytelling and interpretation.
“The history embodied in these places is emblematic of generational aspirations for freedom, the pursuit of education, a need for beauty and architecture, and joys of social life and community bonds,” said Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.