Close this Alert

Close this Alert
ShareThis Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size

Tuskegee among inaugural recipients of grant from National Trust

August 20, 2018

Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Workers scrubbing the outside of the Willcox building
Workers clean the outside of the Willcox building.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has announced a $150,000 grant to benefit work in Tuskegee University’s Department of Architecture.

Tuskegee was selected as one of the 16 funded African-American historic sites due to its activism and achievement. The grant will help support and preserve Booker T. Washington’s mission of “learning to do by doing.”

The grant comes from the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a $25 million multi-year national initiative aimed at uplifting the largely overlooked contributions of African-Americans by protecting and restoring African-American historic sites and uncovering hidden stories of African-Americans connected to historic sites across the nation. To date, it is the largest preservation campaign undertaken on behalf of African-American history.

Dr. Carla Jackson Bell, dean of the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science, and Kwesi Daniels, head of the school’s Department of Architecture, submitted the grant, which was then reviewed by staff from both the National Trust and several noted African-American historical and cultural organizations. Bell looks to the grant to support the creation of a Center for Craft Training and Historic Preservation.

“A craft-training emphasis will promote educational programming within the Taylor School, which in turn will benefit the Tuskegee community by recruiting, educating and guiding participants toward educational and employment opportunities in the building trades, and architecture and construction industries,” she said.

Since the 1920s, Willcox Building E has played a significant role in the development of the university’s original vocational trades program. This grant, and other efforts supporting the new center, would preserve Tuskegee’s vocational “learn by doing” legacy while spurring much-needed building renovations.

Daniels noted that the National Trust grant will help fund improvements to current construction classrooms, an expansion of the existing woodshop/construction lab space in the building’s east wing, and other improvements other spaces to preserve both the functionality and legacy of Willcox E.

“Because our architecture and construction science management programs prepare professionals for active roles rebuilding our cities, towns and rural communities, this grant will further instill in our students an appreciation for the humanistic — social, psychological and physical — aspects of a building problem, as well as other factors such as health, safety, welfare and economic feasibility,” Daniels added.

Bell said the expanded Building Construction Lab will be multifunctional, supporting a variety of projects that include the ongoing design of low-cost and energy efficient Tiny Houses, as well as other design-build, instructional training and historic preservation projects. Willcox E will also house the school’s Historic Preservation and African American Studies minor programs.

“Having suitable space for these programs is vital to our school’s mission, as there are no architecture and construction programs in the state that feature an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning — especially in underserved communities,” Bell said.

Tuskegee University is the only college campus in the U.S. that is designated as a national historic landmark by the National Park Service. Many of the campus’ original buildings were designed by the Robert R. Taylor, the nation’s first accredited African-American architect and the first to receive an architecture degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Taylor served as Tuskegee’s first director of Mechanical Industries beginning in 1901.

Wilcox Building E is one of five Willcox trades buildings built to replace the original Boys’ Trades Building, which burned down in 1918. The trades’ complex — constructed in 1920 as some of the first campus buildings erected with outsourced labor — was the epicenter of all trade programs taught by faculty and implemented on campus by students.

Tuskegee was chosen from a pool of more than 800 applications totaling more than $90 million in requests for support — further illustrating the growing need for additional protection, preservation and restoration of spaces of social and cultural significance to the African-American community.

The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund was launched in November 2017 and is the largest preservation campaign undertaken on behalf of African American history. With a fundraising goal of $25 million over five years, the National Trust will support projects and organizations across the country that are working to tell the nation’s full history. This year’s awards represent more than $1 million in grants to support grassroots preservation efforts to preserve sites across the country.

For more information and a full list of grant award recipients, visit


The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a multi-year initiative led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African-American achievement and activism. To learn more visit:


The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. Visit

© 2018, Tuskegee University