Historic Black colleges to get $650,000 to preserve campuses

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2019 Invision

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2019, file photo, Phylicia Rashad poses for a photo on the red carpet at the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. Several historically Black colleges and universities will receive more than $650,000 in grants to preserve their campuses as part of a new initiative announced Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. The initiative is a brilliant step forward in addressing the history of systemic inequity HBCUs face, said Rashad, co-chair of the initiative and the iconic actress, singer and stage director known for her role as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Invision/AP, File)

CHICAGO – Several historically Black colleges and universities will receive more than $650,000 in grants to preserve their campuses as part of a new initiative announced Tuesday.

The funding for the HBCUs comes as leaders of the colleges and universities continue to advocate for additional funding nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, which has threatened the survival of many already chronically underfunded schools. Details about the initiative were shared with The Associated Press ahead of the announcement.

HBCUs have long been underfunded as a result of decades of structural racism and lack of equitable public funding, said Brent Leggs, executive director of the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, which is supplying the grants.

“They stand as a living testament to African American history and the ongoing achievements of highly influential Americans,” he said. “But they continue to be overlooked and underfunded.”

The HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative seeks to preserve HBCUs as educational institutions as well as physical spaces of historic and cultural significance. The eight schools getting the grants are: Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina; Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi; Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee; Morgan State University in Baltimore; Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas; Spelman College in Atlanta; Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.

“The starting point is to equip HBCUs with the resources, knowledge and information they need to invest in their historic assets,” Leggs said.

The selected HBCUs will develop preservation plans for either a campuswide project or individual buildings, many of which were designed and built by Black architects. One student from each of the schools will help carry out the preservation plans to “cultivate the next generation of Black professionals in historic preservation,” Leggs said.

The $650,000 in funding is part of a larger initiative by the National Trust, which launched the action fund in 2017 as a $25 million campaign to preserve Black culture and celebrate the historic achievements of the Black community.