The Morgan School, located at 510 S. Torrence St., is not currently in use. (Daija Peeler/QCity Metro)

Two historical sites in Charlotte will receive funding from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund to preserve Black heritage. 

The African American Cultural Heritage Fund helps preserve sites associated with Black “activism, achievement and resilience.”

First Baptist Church-West was awarded $150,000, and the Cherry Community Organization received $50,000.

First Baptist Church-West is the oldest standing Baptist church in Charlotte and was the first faith institution designed by former architect and Charlotte’s first Black mayor, Harvey Gantt.

First Baptist Church-West in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room

The church’s award is part of a two-year initiative to conserve Black modernist structures designed by Black architects, according to the National Trust of Historic Preservation website. 

Senior pastor Dr. Rickey Woods said the funding will go support the church’s upkeep, including necessary maintenance and repairs to the church’s architecture. 

As of now, Woods said, there are no specific issues that immediately need to be addressed, but the church will undergo an assessment to understand what needs to be fixed. 

Modern-day photo of First Baptist Church West. (Glenn Burkins/QCity Metro)

These dollars are made possible through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is based in Washington, D.C. The grant is extremely competitive, and this year alone, received 662 applications from across the nation requesting over $74 million in funding. 

The organization awarded $3.8 million to a total of 40 applicants this year. 

“We like to bring visibility to stories that you might not otherwise hear,” director of fellowships and interpretive strategies Lawana Holland-Morre told QCity Metro in a phone interview.

Woods said that the team at First Baptist Church-West had not previously known about this grant and that organization reached out to them in an attempt to identify historical sites around the nation. 

“We’re excited about the recognition it brings and the opportunity that it presents to us to be able to tell our story and to be able to tell a bit of Harvey’s story,” Woods told QCity Metro. “At some point in the future, we’re planning a worship celebration that speaks to this gift and will also publicly recognize Harvey Gantt for his architectural contributions.”

The Cherry Community Organization, according to a release from the National Trust of Historic Preservation, was awarded funding to preserve the historic Morgan School.

The exterior of The Morgan School, circa 1930. Photo courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room

The Morgan School was built in 1925 for Black students and was closed in 1968 after integration. 

The award will support the community’s efforts to preserve the school’s legacy. Uses include a fundraising strategy and business plan for the school to become The Historic Morgan School Community Learning and Heritage Center.

The Cherry community — the oldest Charlotte community built for Black working-class people —  will celebrate its 132nd year of establishment this year, Dr. Sylvia Brittle-Patton told QCity Metro. 

Native Cherry resident Dr. Sylvia-Brittle Patton told QCity Metro the community hopes the site will become a tourist destination as well as a national landmark. Funding from the African American Cultural Heritage Fund will not go toward the purchase of the school. 

“We are grateful to the Board of Education for unanimously deciding to sell the school to us. We are grateful for having people in the community and alumni of Morgan School and across the city and the country who are supporting us. We’re grateful to have a [school] board who’s supporting us as well,” Brittle-Patton said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools owned the property and put it up for bidding in 2021. The Mecklenburg County school board unanimously voted to sell the school to the community, although they have not purchased it yet. In order to complete the project, Bittle-Patton said, it will cost a little over $4 million. 

The community’s national historic team is currently assessing the school to determine what still needs to be done in order to make the site a learning and heritage center

As of now, there is no set date as to when the project will be completed.

Daija Peeler covers arts, culture, and faith in Charlotte.

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