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Pennsylvania's Black cemeteries receive $50,000 in preservation grant

Flags mark the graves of veterans at Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Mount Lebanon, Pa, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.
Gene J. Puskar
Flags mark the graves of veterans at Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Mount Lebanon, Pa, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

Pennsylvania’s Black cemeteries and burial grounds will receive $50,000 in funding from the African American Cultural Heritage Fund to invest in the historic spaces.

The AACHF was founded in 2017 after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville. Since then, the fund has been the largest U.S. resource dedicated to the preservation of historic African-American sites, raising $80 million and supporting more than 200 preservation projects nationally.

This year the action fund will give the money to Preservation Pennsylvania’s African American Cemetery Stewards Network. The program will work to protect over 100 Black cemeteries that they say are being threatened by underfunding, development, and changing demographics.

The sites include the final resting places of Black veterans who served in battles dating back to the Civil War. With the funding, they'll give out mini-grants, technical assistance and tool kits for the stewards. Brent Leggs, the executive director of the Heritage Fund, said the projects are crucial for Black racial justice.

“There is a link between historic preservation and racial justice. We believe at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, that all Americans deserve to see themselves and their history and their potential and the historic African-American places that surround them," said Leggs. “ It's critically important that we begin to understand as a society that representation matters.”

Leggs said he hopes that projects like these will empower the next generation of preservationists to understand the power of place and celebrate the evolution of American diversity.

“The 2022 African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund grantee list is not only a celebration of America's diverse cultural heritage, but it's also a celebration of the individuals and a preservationist of color that are committed to expanding the American story,” says Leggs.

Ebonee Rice-Nguyen is the summer intern for 90.5 WESA with an interest in culture, social media, and race relations. Rice is a current Junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying English Writing, Political Science and Gender Studies.