Image by NPS

By Angela Chen/ Hoodline.com

The National Park Service is doling out $23.4 million to bolster historic sites and research projects dedicated to African American achievements and struggles for civil rights across 16 states and DC, as the agency announced yesterday. Among the grants, two projects in Michigan are set to receive significant funding, with one initiative focusing on preserving the local African American civil rights history and the other on highlighting African American recreational tourism and locations listed in “The Negro Motorist Green Book.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund will be taking on the latter project, receiving $75,000 to potentially restore and publicly enshrine establishments documented in the Green Book, which served as a critical guide for African American travelers during the era of segregation. Furthermore, Eastern Michigan University is gearing up to closely survey Detroit’s east side, thanks to an endowment of another $75,000, “to document, preserve, and recognize the places and stories associated with the struggle for civil rights of African Americans,” according to a statement from National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.

The NPS grants will not only sustain historic places such as the Harriet Tubman YWCA in North Carolina and the Louis Armstrong House in New York but will also sponsor history projects like the one in Michigan. 

The grant for Michigan will enable a thorough examination of sites connected with African American recreational tourism, including gas stations and resorts once listed in the Green Book. “The survey report will also detail context on African American recreational tourism in Michigan,” as Jennifer Evans, Wright Museum exhibition manager, told The Detroit News in July last year.

The National Park Service has been a long-standing proponent of such projects, having provided over $126 million since 2016, aiming to capture and cherish the narrative of African Americans’ quest to simply freely move. The NPS believes this preservation to be not only an act of memory but also a continuous message to future generations. As Sams puts it, these projects reflect the commitment “to recognize the places and stories associated with the struggle for civil rights of African Americans.” The HPF, which bankrolls these vital projects, relies not on tax dollars but on revenue generated from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, which underscores a government strategy to recycle nonrenewable resource returns into the conservation of the nation’s valuable historical tapestry.

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