Philander Smith College Awarded Preservation Grant

The Little Rock institution is one of 8 HBCUs receiving the funding.

Philander Smith College campus
Courtesy of Philander Smith College.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is awarding more than $650,000 in grants to eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities to fund Cultural Heritage Stewardship Plans. The funding is part of the nonprofit organization’s HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative.

Philander Smith College is the sole Arkansas HBCU receiving the funding. The college will develop a stewardship plan for the Sherman E. Tate Student Recreation Center. Known as the “Old Gymnasium,” the Tate was constructed by the Works Progress Administration and today in underutilized due to deferred maintenance. The stewardship plan will address critical repairs, rehabilitate the Tate for future use, and provide an opportunity to evaluate its access and relationship with adjacent buildings on the Philander Smith campus, according to a press release.

The HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative seeks to provide technical assistance, fund new stewardship plans, and empower HBCUs with the resources to protect and preserve their historic campuses, buildings and landscapes. The preservation of HBCUs is often overlooked and vastly underfunded, leading to deferred maintenance, vacancy and the threat of demolition, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Benedict College, Jackson State University, Lane College, Morgan State University, Spelman College, Stillman College and Tuskegee University are also receiving grants. The HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative grants were selected by a six-member jury of preservation leaders and institutions working to preserve HBCUs.

Through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities, launched the initiative in 2020 with leadership support from the Ford Foundation, JBP Foundation, J.M. Kaplan Fund, Executive Leadership Council, Chipstone Foundation, Wunsch Americana Foundation and James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation.