(Atlanta, Ind.) – The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF), a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced its award of $75,000 to Roberts Settlement for Preserving Black Churches.
Roberts Settlement is one of 35 organizations in 22 states to receive a total of $4 million in grant funding to advance long-term and sustainable strategies that strengthen stewardship and asset management, interpretation and programming, and fundraising activities for historic Black churches across the country. This program works to uplift the legacy of often-overlooked Black churches, ensuring their legacy of spirituality, history, and democracy endures.
Located 30 miles north of Indianapolis, Roberts Settlement was founded in 1835 by free Blacks of mixed racial heritage who migrated mostly from North Carolina and Virginia to escape deteriorating racial conditions in the South. Their goals were the pursuit of economic, educational, and religious aspirations with greater freedom and fewer racial barriers. Today, set on a gently rolling landscape, visitors will find a chapel and cemetery, representing a once thriving community that continued to grow through the late-1800s.
This grant will aid in the funding of an interpretive outdoor public exhibit that centers the legacy of Hamilton County, Indiana’s Black pioneers and broadens visitors’ understanding of the Midwest's diverse history. The plans for this project will be unveiled later this month along with a public fundraising campaign.
“We are honored and humbled to be chosen to receive this grant among more than 1,500 applicants,” said Roberts Settlement President LaVella Hyter. “In assisting with the creation of this exhibit space, the grant helps ensure the legacy of the Roberts Settlement for years to come.”
The Action Fund’s Preserving Black Churches program is a $20 million initiative funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., to help historic Black churches and congregations reimagine, redesign and deploy historic preservation to protect the cultural assets and legacies they steward, tell their stories of resiliency and hope, and carry their missions into the future. With more than $85 million in funding, the Action Fund is the largest U.S. resource dedicated to the preservation of African American historic places.
“Leaving an indelible imprint on our society, historic Black churches hold an enduring legacy of community, spirituality, and freedom that continues to span generations,” said Brent Leggs, executive director, African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and senior vice president, National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The Action Fund created the Preserving Black Churches program to recognize and celebrate the Black church for its contributions on American life, culture, and history, while also investing in their physical permanence and financial sustainment into the future. We are honored to award our first round of grantees with the resources needed to ensure the Black church continues to stand in its fullest glory.”
Since our nation was founded, the Black church has played a prominent role in advancing critical democratic and societal change. According to Pew Research Center, around three-quarters of Black adults say predominantly Black churches have helped advance the fight for racial equity.
“From one room praise houses to unprecedented metropolitan mega churches, Black churches since slavery times have been the heart and soul of the African American community,” said Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., professor, historian, filmmaker, and national advisory councilmember for the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “So, it is inspiring to see the Action Fund’s commitment to preserving their history and their physical structures. After all, these are our sacred sites, which our ancestors built from the ground up, and we must do everything we can to ensure their survival. Preserving these structures is a visible way of preserving a crucial chapter of Black History.”
Today Black churches are experiencing challenges like deferred maintenance, insufficient funds and threats of demolition. With leadership support from Lilly Endowment Inc, Preserving Black Churches will advance strategies that model and strengthen stewardship and asset management, interpretation, and fundraising activities of historic Black churches across the country. In addition to helping churches preserve their historic buildings, the program is designed to help congregations strengthen their capacities to serve the spiritual and social needs of their communities for years to come.
Learn more about the 2023 recipients of the Preserving Black Churches Fund at SavingPlaces.org/BlackChurches.
About Roberts Settlement
Roberts Settlement was established in 1835 by free people of color who migrated mostly from North Carolina and Virginia to escape deteriorating racial conditions. Their goals were the pursuit of economic, educational and religious aspirations with greater freedom and fewer racial barriers. Today, the descendants gather annually for a family Homecoming to celebrate their shared history and renew their family bonds. In 2023, Roberts Settlement publicly unveiled plans for the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk with support from the Lilly Endowment Inc. This project was funded in part by a grant from the African American Cultural Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information, visit RobertsSettlement.org.
About the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American resilience, activism, and achievement. Visit savingplaces.org/actionfund. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. Visit savingplaces.org.
Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. Although the Endowment maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana, it also funds programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. Visit lillyendowment.org.