First Missionary Baptist Church to receive $155,000 from African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund

Jan. 16—WASHINGTON, D.C.- As the nation commemorates the life and impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the National Trust for Historic Preservation's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is awarding $4 million in its second round of Preserving Black Churches grants to 31 historic Black churches across the U.S. With over $95 million in funding, the Action Fund is the largest U.S. resource dedicated to preserving historic African American places. Since launching the Preserving Black Churches in 2022, the Action Fund has provided over $8.7 million in grants to over 70 historic churches.

Black churches stand as timeless bastions of faith, resilience, and achievement in communities across America. These sacred spaces have been the birthplace of movements, the planning grounds for change, and a refuge for those seeking solace.

"We created the Preserving Black Churches program to ensure the historic Black church's legacy is told and secured. That these cultural assets can continue to foster community resilience and drive meaningful change in our society," said Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. "We couldn't be more excited to honor our second round of grantees and ensure that African Americans — and our entire nation — can enjoy an empowered future built on the inspiring foundations of our past."

Preserving Black Churches is a $20 Million Action Fund program that equips historic Black churches and their congregations with the critical resources and technical preservation expertise to protect the historic assets and legacies they steward. With this round's grants ranging from $50,000 to $200,000, the Preserving Black Churches program helps congregations solve urgent and ongoing preservation threats such as deferred maintenance, insufficient funding, demolition, water filtration, and mold contamination.

"Black churches have been at the forefront of meaningful democratic reform since this nation's founding. They're a living testament to the resilience of our ancestors in the face of unimaginably daunting challenges," said Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., historian and advisor to the Action Fund. "The heart of our spiritual world is the Black church. These places of worship, these sacred cultural centers, must exist for future generations to understand who we were as a people."

With leadership support from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Action Fund advances strategies that model and strengthen historic Black churches' stewardship and asset management, interpretation, and fundraising activities across the country.

One of the churches selected for a planning grant was Thomasville's First Missionary Baptist Church.

Originally constructed by formerly enslaved congregants between 1890 and 1900, First Missionary Baptist Church is a modest Queen Ann-style building with decorative features such as a metal roof and abundant windows. Many political, cultural, and intellectual luminaries, including Jesse Jackson and Shirley Chisolm, have visited the church. Funding will help the church repair its roof and eaves, which have both sustained severe damage.