New historic preservation grant will support Black, Hispanic and Indigenous groups

Holly Rodriguez | 1/26/2023, 6 p.m.
A $5 million grant established by the Virginia General Assembly in 2022 is designed to to support historically underserved and ...

A $5 million grant established by the Virginia General Assembly in 2022 is designed to to support historically underserved and under-represented communities and associated sites of historical relevance.

The Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Historic Preservation Fund (BIPOC) will launch its application process this spring through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Caitlin Sylvester, grants coordinator for the program, said historians throughout the state are conducting outreach to potential grantees, beyond Black, Hispanic and Indigenous communities. But, she said because those populations traditionally disenfranchised in Virginia have been mostly African-Americans and Indigenous people, they may be most likely to apply for and receive funding.

“This fund will provide grants for the acquisition, protection, and rehabilitation of historic and archaeological sites and tribal lands of

significance associated with Virginia’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities,” she said.

The grant funding is limited to three specific project types: rehabilitation and/or stabilization of real property, purchase of a fee simple or protective interest in real property, and data recovery such as archaeological excavation. “A few examples of project types could be a rehabilitation of a historic Rosenwald school, the reacquisition of Tribal lands, or an archaeological project associated with Black watermen,” Ms. Sylvester said.

Despite the DHR’s outreach efforts, the word may not be reaching potential appli- cants most qualified for the funding.

The AMMD Pine Grove Project is an organization working to preserve a Rosenwald School that existed in Cumberland County from 1917 to 1964. As a former student at Pine Grove Elementary School, Muriel Branch’s family started the project several years ago. She said that she knew about the grant, but was unaware of details.

Pine Grove Elementary School was one of 5,000 “Rosenwald schools” built in rural communities between 1913 and 1932. A collaboration between Booker T. Washington and former Sears and Roebuck president Julius Rosenwald, the “Rosenwald schools” were built in 15 states, mostly rural Southern communities.

Ms. Branch said the organization never wants to turn away potential funding.

“We’re looking at a five-year plan for rehabilitating Pine Grove,” she said. “The thing about preservation is that it is slow and the process of applying can be tedious.”

Michelle Oliver, president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, said she had not heard about the grant, but hopes DHR intends to increase outreach efforts.

“I’m glad there is money out there to do something in the community in terms of preserving history and genealogy,” she said. “But a lot of times we don’t know about these grants, though, and then the money is lost.”

DHR is betting on organizations applying for funds. Gov. Glenn Youngkin put an additional $5 million for the grant into his proposed budget, but the outcome will not be known until the end of the General Assembly session.

Ms. Sylvester said there are plans in the near future to connect with and inform potential grantees.

All eligible applicants must request at least $50,000 in grant funding, but no more than $1 million. Applicants can apply for more than one project across application rounds, but grant awards per applicant will not exceed $1million in total.

“We are hosting a webinar with Preservation Virginia that is free but people must register, and it will include more details and a Q&A session,” Ms. Sylvester said. “We would encourage folks to attend that if they are interested in applying and they can reach out by emailing BIPOC-GrantFund@dhr.virginia.gov with further questions.”

For more information about the BIPOC Grant Fund, please visit https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/grants/.