National Park Service Awards $5 Million To Help Preserve America’s Equal Rights History

The United Colored American Cemetery receiving vault will be repaired as part of this grant award/Courtesy of The Union Foundation

The National Park Service has distributed $5 million to eight projects in six states as part of the Historic Preservation Fund‘s History of Equal Rights grant program, which focuses on the preservation of sites directly associated with the struggle for all Americans to gain equal rights. 

This year’s grants were made to sites significant to the equal rights of women; Hispanic and African Americans; laborers; and the LGBTQ+ community, a Park Service release said.

“In our American experiment to create a more perfect union, we’ve struggled to meet our core principle of equal rights for all, but we continue moving forward in order to achieve a better future,” said Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “The National Park Service is proud to help states, tribes, local governments, and nonprofit organizations invest in locally-led preservation of historic structures which tell hidden stories of our nation’s history.” 

This year’s grants will support the preservation of sites like the Arlington Street Church in Boston and the United Colored American Cemetery in Cincinnati

  • The Arlington Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts, was built in 1861 and displays grand 16th-century Italian Renaissance and 18th-century English architecture primarily created in New Jersey brownstone ashlar. The building and congregation have hosted LGBTQ+ rights organizations and LGBTQ+ cultural events such as the Boston chapter of DignityUSA since 1977, and the nation’s first LGBTQ youth prom in 1981 as organized by the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth (BAGLY). This grant will restore the missing South Stairs and provide other accessibility improvements. 

  • The United Colored American Cemetery was dedicated in 1883 after the original African American cemetery in Avondale, Ohio, was expelled to make way for White development. Cemeteries, like all significant institutions, were subject to segregation and inequal protection for African Americans. It took more than one year to transfer the tombstones, coffins, and remains, but damage to coffins and tombstone misplacements were common. Moreover, a lack of security during the long removal and reburial process left both locations vulnerable to vandalism, looting, and destruction. This grant will preserve the cemetery with structural repairs to the burial vaults, monument cleaning and repair, and accessibility & security improvements. 

Through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), Congress appropriated funding for the History of Equal Rights grant program in fiscal year 2023. The HPF uses revenue from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf to assist with a broad range of preservation projects, lessening the loss of nonrenewable resources and benefiting the preservation of other irreplaceable resources, without using tax dollars. Since its establishment in 1977, the HPF has provided more than $2 billion in historic preservation grants to States, Tribes, local governments, and nonprofit organizations. Administered by the NPS, HPF funds may be appropriated by Congress to support a variety of historic preservation projects to help preserve the nation’s cultural resources. For more information about NPS historic preservation programs and grants, please visit the Historic Preservation Fund.
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