A $50,000 grant from a national organization will help the Montana Historical Society produce a short documentary on historic African American experiences in Montana.
The grant is through the National Trust for Preservation, as part of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. It is one of 27 grants recently announced.
Spearheaded by the State Historic Preservation Office, the documentary will include oral histories, highlight historic places, and use both previous and new research. In addition, the grant and other funding resources from the National Park Service, Humanities Montana, and the Montana Cultural Trust, will help MHS expand place-based documentation and additional resources to be made available on the Identifying Montana’s African American Heritage Resource website (https://mhs.mt.gov/Shpo/AfricanAmericans).
“It will provide crucial public entrée to a larger project that includes research, interviews, website updates, statewide context and National Historic Register listings,” said Kate Hampton, a SHPO historian. “During the past 14 years, MHS’ African American history projects have resulted in the creation of 52 property record forms, six oral histories, eight National Register listings and an interactive website that includes primary resources, story maps, biographies, essays, bibliographies and lesson plans. This groundwork will make it possible to illuminate significant historic themes, including emigration patterns through the Civil Rights era.”
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund was founded after the 2017 white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The rally resulted in a backlash against white supremacist groups, which led to the creation of a national preservation campaign meant to uplift and honor the Black American experience.
Brett Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, said recent events have made rethinking American history even more important.
“We realized that the American story we often tell repeatedly negates the transformative contributions of African Americans, whose capability, intellect, and creativity were and still are invaluable to the building of this nation,” Leggs said. “We realized that preservation of historic sites, where African Americans changed the American landscape, could be one way our nation comes to understand the need to create a more fair and just society. We saw a more inclusive approach to historic preservation as one step on the long road to heal the divisions between us.”
The documentary is expected to be completed by August 2021 and will be offered both locally and nationwide.
For more information, contact Eve Byron, public information officer, at 406/444-6843 or firstname.lastname@example.org