MCAAC Announces $1 Million in African American Heritage Preservation Grants
13 Organizations Receive Funding to Restore Cultural and Historical Sites
(November 9, 2021) CROWNSVILLE, MD – The Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture (MCAAHC) and the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) have awarded thirteen African American Heritage Preservation Program (AAHPP) grants totaling $1,000,000 to Maryland nonprofit groups for FY22. These grants offer assistance to organizations and private citizens in their sponsorship of projects involving acquisition, construction, or improvement of sites related to African American heritage. This year’s grant awards range from $48,000 to $100,000.
The mission of MCAAHC is to interpret, document, preserve, and promote Maryland’s African American heritage, to provide technical assistance to institutions and groups with similar objectives, and to educate Maryland’s citizens and visitors about the significance of the African American experience in Maryland and the nation. MCAAHC is housed within the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.
Online applications for FY23 AAHPP funding will be available in spring 2022 on MHT’s website (http://mht.maryland.gov/grants_africanamerican.shtml).
For more information about the grant program, contact Barbara Fisher (MHT) at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 697-9574, or MCAAHC Director Chanel Compton at email@example.com or (410) 216-6180. For information about organizations receiving grants, please contact the institutions directly.
MHT is an agency of the Maryland Department of Planning and was formed in 1961 to assist the people of Maryland in identifying, studying, evaluating, preserving, protecting, and interpreting the state’s significant prehistoric and historic districts, sites, structures, cultural landscapes, heritage areas, cultural objects and artifacts, as well as less tangible human and community traditions. Through research, conservation and education, MHT assists the people of Maryland in understanding their historical and cultural heritage.
Details about the 13 grants are below.
Banneker-Douglass Museum (former Mount Moriah AME Church) –
Annapolis, Anne Arundel County
($100,000 awarded to Banneker-Douglass Museum Foundation, Inc.)
Mt. Moriah African Episcopal Church was built in 1874 by a congregation of free Blacks whose roots go back to 1799, and is one of Maryland’s earliest African American churches. Over its history, Mt. Moriah served as a house of worship, an educational facility, and a meeting place for social and cultural events. It is currently not used for worship but is the home of the Banneker-Douglass Museum, a state-owned museum of African American history and culture. The grant project will include interior flooring repairs.
Sphinx Club – Baltimore City
($100,000 awarded to Druid Heights Community Development Corporation)
The Sphinx Club opened in 1946 in an era of segregated public venues and was one of the nation’s first minority-owned membership night clubs. The Sphinx Club became the center of social life along Pennsylvania Avenue, where African Americans could enjoy some of America’s most famous musicians and entertainers. The building has recently been stabilized and the grant will assist in its ongoing interior and exterior rehabilitation.
Sanaa Center – Baltimore City
($100,000 awarded to Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts and Entertainment District, Inc.)
Located in the Old West Baltimore National Register Historic District, the Sanaa Center will be an expansion of the adjacent Harris-Marcus Center that will include co-working space, arts incubator space, and outdoor site improvements. Grant funds will be used for acquisition and pre-development of this project, which is intended to support Black artists, entertainers, and entrepreneurs.
Bethel AME Church (Bethel Center) – Mountain Lake Park, Garrett County
($100,000 awarded to Engage Mountain Maryland, Inc.)
Built on a lot in Oakland purchased by trustees in 1895, Bethel AME Church served as a house of worship for a small Black community that lived in Garrett County around the turn of the twentieth century. The property was foreclosed on in the 1930s, and a local farmer purchased the structure, disassembled it in large pieces, and reassembled it on a nearby farm for use as a carriage house and blacksmith shop. The sale of Bethel AME Church coincided with an exodus of African Americans from Garrett County caused by racial terror and economic conditions. The small, gable-roofed, frame building is proposed to be relocated to the town of Mountain Lake Park for use as a community gathering space.
Havre de Grace Colored School Museum and Cultural Center – Havre de Grace, Harford County
($100,000 awarded to The Havre de Grace Colored School Museum and Cultural Center, Incorporated)
The original Havre de Grace Colored School is a two-room building constructed in 1910 by Harford County Public Schools in order to educate primary-school-age Black children. In 1930, a four-room brick addition was constructed to serve as the first public high school for African American students in Harford County. Prior to the construction of the high school, Harford County’s African American students had to travel to Baltimore City, Cecil County, or Pennsylvania to receive a high school education. The property is used as a museum and cultural center; grant funds will assist in alleviating water infiltration issues and repair the foundation and water damaged interior.
Franklin Cemetery (Tanyard Cemetery) – Deale, Anne Arundel County
($100,000 awarded to Franklin United Methodist Church)
Located in the small community of Deale, the Tanyard-Franklin Cemetery is associated with one of the African American Methodist gathering places in southern Anne Arundel County. Local residents as well as congregants of Franklin United Methodist Church are interred in the cemetery. The oldest grave marker dates to 1842. The grant will assist in the conservation and protection of the cemetery.
Scotland African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – Potomac, Montgomery County
($100,000 awarded to Scotland A.M.E. Zion Church)
After the Civil War, freed men and women established a settlement known as “Snakes Den” along Seven Locks Road. In 1924, community members constructed the Scotland A.M.E. Zion Church. Throughout the 1960s, discriminatory financing practices left many in the community vulnerable to development pressure and condemnation. The church served as the hub for community resistance. The community succeeded in saving their property, with the church being the only historic structure remaining. Grant funds will assist with exterior repairs and other rehabilitation work.
Hollingsworth House at Historic Elk Landing – Elkton, Cecil County
($48,000 awarded to The Historic Elk Landing Foundation, Inc.)
The Hollingsworth House is part of Elk Landing, a once-navigable port at the confluence of two creeks. The house was built sometime after Zebulon Hollingsworth acquired the property in 1735. An 1848 fire gutted the house, which was then remodeled to include an east wing and a front porch. The kitchen and slave quarters above it were likely a separate building until the remodel. The house will continue to be used as a living history museum, with grant funds assisting the restoration of the kitchen and slave quarters and providing an opportunity to interpret the African American experience at the historic site.
St. Paul Church – Denton, Caroline County
($100,000 awarded to St. Paul Church Historical, Revitalization, and Maintenance, Inc.)
The St. Paul Church is one of the earliest African American churches in Caroline County. The associated cemetery has burials dating back to at least the 1840s. The church will be used to promote community education and awareness of African American culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. AAHPP grant funds will advance a major ongoing restoration of the structure.
Carroll Family Farm – Nanjemoy, Charles County
($56,000 awarded to Working Out Wonders Foundation, Inc.)
The Carroll Family Farm and Cemetery includes a vernacular frame farmhouse that was largely constructed in the late nineteenth century by Lelita (Lottie) Diggs. Diggs was formerly enslaved; she later became the matriarch of the influential Carroll family, who were amongst the founders of Mt. Hope Baptist Church, the site of the oldest Baptist African American congregation in Charles County. Carroll family members are interred in the cemetery. Significantly, this property has remained in the ownership of the same family from the late nineteenth century to the present. This grant will be the first step to transform this vacant property into a heritage and cultural site.
Mt. Nebo AME Church – Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s County
($67,000 awarded to Friends of Historic Mt. Nebo Preservation Corporation)
Mt. Nebo African Methodist Episcopal Church is a rare survival of a rural AME church in Prince George’s County. The church was constructed in 1925, replacing an earlier building from 1877. The current project will augment and continue the work that has already begun in order to rehabilitate the building for use as a community center.
St. James AME Church – Havre de Grace, Harford County
($55,000 awarded to The St. James A.M.E. Church of Gravel Hill Road, Inc.)
One of the oldest African American churches in Harford County, St. James A.M.E. Church traces its roots to 1849 when one congregation encompassed a wide swath of Harford County. In 1864, members of the Gravel Hill community constructed their own church building, which also served as a school and social hall. Adjacent to the church is St. James A.M.E. Cemetery, where several Civil War veterans are buried. Extensive renovations and additions to the gable-front frame church were completed in the1970s and 1980s. Grant funds will assist with exterior repairs and other rehabilitation work as well as an assessment of the cemetery.
Bellevue Passage Museum – Royal Oak, Talbot County
($56,000 awarded to Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Inc.)
The building proposed to house the Bellevue Passage Museum was built circa 1900 on a lot on Dawson Street in the historically African American community of Bellevue. It is a small, single story, rectangular frame store building with a hipped roof. It was occupied in the early twentieth century by John U. Greene. Its use as a privately run business was unusual in this company-oriented town which was created through the designs and financing of the local canning and packing business owner. The small structure has been moved several times throughout its history, and the project will relocate the structure to a lot on East Poplar Street within Bellevue for use as a museum.