From Tuskegee University to Spelman College, Shaw University to Florida A&M, our nation’s 105 HBCUs are living testaments to African American history and the ongoing achievements of generations of highly influential scholars, artists, attorneys, scientists, and activists.

The historic buildings and landscapes on HBCU campuses—many of which were built and designed by African American architects, planners, and students—hold a diverse and empowering collection of stories and artifacts that help tell the full American story and reflect the important legacy of the Black educational experience and communities that surround and support these institutions.

On Feb. 16, 2021, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, through its HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative, awarded more than $650,000 in grants to eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities — including Atlanta-based Spelman College, one of only two private HBCUs for women only — to fund Cultural Heritage Stewardship Plans.

In 2020, through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with National Endowment for the Humanities launched the Initiative with leadership support from Ford Foundation, the JPB Foundation, J.M Kaplan Fund, Executive Leadership Council, Chipstone Foundation, Wunsch Americana Foundation, and James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation.

The Initiative seeks to provide technical assistance, fund new Cultural Heritage Stewardship Plans, and empower HBCUs with the resources to protect, preserve, and leverage their historic campuses, buildings, and landscapes, ensuring these academic institutions and symbols of African American pride are preserved to inspire and educate future generations.

Since listing HBCUs as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 1998, the National Trust has advocated and worked to strengthen the stewardship capacity of HBCUs, while also raising national awareness of their significance and the ongoing threats of demolition, deferred maintenance, and insufficient funding. The National Trust and its partners aim to grow the leadership and preservation capacity of HBCUs that steward some of the most diverse and exceptional collection of historic assets in the world.

Spelman College, founded in 1881, will develop a stewardship plan for the Rockefeller Fine Arts Building and Site (1964). The RFA Building was the first Modernist building constructed on Spelman’s campus and has been continuously used by its music, fine arts, and drama departments. The stewardship plan will address updates to the RFA Building’s mechanical and structural systems, as well as improved ADA access while preserving the building’s architectural character.

The other recipients of the grant include Benedict College in Columbia, S.C.; Jackson (Mississippi) State University; Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee; Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland; Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas; Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Tuskegee (Alabama) University.

The HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative Grants were selected by a six-member jury of preservation leaders and institutions working to preserve HBCUs.

  • John M. Fowler Executive Director, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Katherine Malone-France Chief Preservation Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Johnathan Holifield Former Executive Director, White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Jessica Kelly Grants Management Specialist, National Park Service
  • Dr. Deborah L. Mack Interim Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
  • Garfield L. Peart, MBA, AIA, NOMA, LEED President, Syntony Design Collaborative, LLC
Spelman College's Rockefeller Fine Arts Building will be renovated through a grant.

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