History Colorado (museum) has received a $50,000 grant that will allow the museum to create an African American Heritage Trail across the state. It is not a traditional entertainment-oriented trail, but it will use technology, phones and digital applications to communicate the story of the physical sites that you can visit. The National Historic Trust Preservation awarded the museum a grant through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. (see below)
One of the first steps will be for History Colorado to gather oral histories from across the state, which in turn will help shape the trail.
The virtual trail will be divided into four regions around the state: southwest, southeast, northwest and northeast. Each region will have volunteer regional ambassadors who collect the stories.
The virtual trail will highlight famous historically black neighborhoods and lesser-known areas, as well as individual renowned blacks from Colorado. This will include the Buffalo soldiers, Clara Brown, Don Cheadle and Pam Greer!
Clara Brown was a former enslaved woman from Virginia and Kentucky who became a community leader, philanthropist and aided settlement of former slaves during the time of Colorado’s Gold Rush. She was known as the ‘Angel of the Rockies’ and made her mark as Colorado’s first black settler and a prosperous entrepreneur.
The black American experience will be traced from pioneer days in the West to the present day and it will be available to all, not just in February Black History Month, but all year long.
Black American West Museum and Heritage Center, Colorado, also received $50,000 grant from the National Trust. The funds are going towards board development, governance and training, according to the director.
The Black American West Museum is in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. It is located in a house that was once owned by Dr. Justina Ford. She helped deliver 7,000 newborns during her 50-year career. She was the first licensed Black female physician in Colorado, from 1902 to 1952.
National Trust for Historic Preservation
In July 2021, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced its support for projects totaling $3 million that will help preserve African American landmarks. With $50 million of funding, the Action Fund is the largest preservation effort ever undertaken to support the longevity of African American historic sites.
Brent Leggs, executive director of the Action Fund, said, “The recipients of this funding exemplify centuries of African American resilience, activism, and achievement. Some of their stories are known, and some are yet untold. Together they help document the true, complex history of our nation. By preserving these places and telling their stories, preservationists can help craft a more accurate American identity and inspire a commitment to justice.”
The Action Fund has grown at a blistering pace since its inception in 2017. In just 3 years it had raised nearly $30 million due to primary support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and The JPB Foundation. In 2021, the fund nearly doubled in size due to a significant gift by philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett who announced a $20 million grant to the Action Fund.
“The Action Fund has become the largest resource in American history dedicated to the preservation of African American architectural landmarks,” said Lonnie Bunch, the first African American and first historian to serve as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. “These grants will positively impact 40 communities nationwide.