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The $750,000 award will be used by the Weitzman School to support its CPCRS's Capacity Building for Sustainable Preservation of Civil Rights Heritage Places initiative. Credit: Katharine Cocherl

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded The Weitzman School of Design’s Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites $750,000 for historical preservation.

The award is part of a $1.5 million grant awarded to Penn and the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science at Tuskegee University, Weitzman News reported. The grants will support the center's Capacity Building for Sustainable Preservation of Civil Rights Heritage Places initiative, which focuses on giving incoming preservation professionals an understanding of the imbalances in determining which historic locations get preserved.

The two universities awarded the grant will develop strategies with historically Black colleges and universities to redevelop the field of historic preservation to consider the roles of historical places, organizations, and communities that were committed to civil rights, Weitzman News reported. Penn and Tuskegee’s partnership will focus on establishing the sustainability of symbolic Black heritage places and organizations from American civil rights history.

The Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites, which launched in October 2020, is committed to developing relationships with historically Black colleges and universities through joint programs for research and fieldwork on preservation sites and exposing HBCU students to career paths in design.

Penn and Tuskegee began a formal partnership with aid from the J.M. Kaplan Fund in 2020, which has led to joint student-centered field projects, curriculum development, classwork, and other scholarly programs for undergraduates and graduate students. The alliance has envisioned longer-term projects focused on community-based efforts linking the legacy of civil rights with economic development, arts and culture sectors, and urban planning processes. 

One of the historical sites that will be restored using the new grant is the A. G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, a key site of the anti-segregation movement in the city, Alabama News Center reported.

The grant-funded project marks the beginning of the Mellon Foundation’s “Humanities in Place” initiative which aims to diversify and deepen the public dialogue about American history.

“The field of historic preservation, long dominated by institutions marked by white privilege, has historically had a blind spot for many issues of significance for Black heritage, from listings and leadership to public policies and university study opportunities," interim department head of Architecture at Tuskegee Kwesi Daniels told Weitzman News. "It is urgent to build capacity among Black-led organizations to meet the goals of culturally resonant, community-serving, and financially sustainable, Black heritage and civil rights sites.”