It’s been nearly a year since hate reared its ugly head on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. In the aftermath of what would become a defining moment in the debate over Confederate statues and public symbols of racism throughout our nation, a stronger need to remind the country of the contributions of African Americans emerged.

“After the event in Charlottesville where heritage, culture and public space just collided, we created the action fund to tell the full history of our nation and to offer understanding, healing, and reconciliation,” Brent Leggs, Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund told ESSENCE.

The Action Fund, which officially launched late last year in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a $25 million dollar multi-year initiative aimed at preserving historic sites of African American importance. Today, Leggs reveals the recipients of the first million dollars in funding. The announcement is being made center stage at the annual ESSENCE Festival.

Included in the inaugural class of AACHAF awardees are 16 sites, selected from an initial list of 830 applicants. The beneficiaries range from well-known civil rights landmarks in Birmingham, Alabama to a slave holding site in Richmond, Virginia to the home of an influential jazz musician in Huntington, NY.

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“We wanted to showcase the diverse stories and places of Black America,” Leggs explained. 

Leggs also pointed out that the existence of the action fund is not only to help preserve a varied collection of historic places but to also serve as a model for what can happen when there is a public and private partnership to sustain the stewardship of important places.

“We are at an important inflection point in our nation’s history and it’s important that we bring greater recognition to the full contributions of African-Americans to our nation, that we uplift the story of African-American struggle and achievement, that we highlight the legacy of Black activism and community, Leggs shared. “So through the action fund we will empower more communities to save the places and stories that reflect the full breadth and complexity of Black America.”

For the full list of AACHAF awardees, visit