A fund aimed at helping and preserving historic Black churches has received an enormous gift this week, according to NBC News.
Lilly Endowment Inc. donated $20 million to the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, which will go to the Preserving Black Churches Project, according to an announcement from the National Trust For Historic Preservation on Dr. Martin Luther King Day (January 17).
St. James AME Church will be getting $100,000 of this funding after it was decimated by a deadly tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky last month, reporters say. Since the church has less than 20 active members, most of whom are older, they need all the help they can get, according to Rev. Ralph Johnson.
“Historically Black churches deserve the same admiration and stewardship as the National Cathedral in Washington or New York’s Trinity Church,” he told NBC News. Johnson is the presiding elder of the church district that includes St. James AME's congregation, reporters noted.
Historically Black churches were safe havens for Black Americans since the end of the Civil War, from schooling and spirituality to social gatherings and activism. Those with active congregations take priority, but churches used for housing or treatment programs can also get funding.
The Action Fund not only helps churches with building repairs, but it aims to help over 50 Black churches nationwide with things like asset management and recording their history, according to Brent Leggs, the executive director of the fund.
Since its founding, the Action Fund has raised over $70 million and assisted with more than 200 preservation projects across the country. Reporters say the fund calls itself "the largest-ever attempt to preserve sites linked to African American history."