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Tuskegee University receives a $750,000 grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

September 28, 2021

Contact: Kawana McGough, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Dr. Carla Jackson Bell
Dr. Carla Jackson Bell, Co-PI

The Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science and Management (TSACS) has been awarded a $750,000 grant for three years from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Mellon Foundation Board of Trustees approved the grant to support a trans-institutional partnership between Tuskegee University and the University of Pennsylvania for preservation education, outreach, and practice centered on Black heritage.

This joint award totals $1.5 million between Tuskegee University and the University of Pennsylvania, with financial resources shared 50/50. These resources will be directed toward a few areas of joint activity and implemented through coordinated and complementary investments that build capacity for preservation education, outreach, and practice centered on Black heritage. Specific activities include curriculum development, joint field projects, infrastructure development, additional faculty and professional staff support, developing digital humanities applications, research on management models, and workforce development infrastructure. Other budget priorities for Tuskegee University are project coordination staff, visiting professors/junior faculty, and student internships.

"Funding from this grant allows Dean Carla Jackson Bell and Dr. Kwesi Daniels to build on the vision to attain the school's mission to embrace Booker T. Washington's historical legacy to "Learn to do by Doing," said Tuskegee University President, Dr. Charlotte P. Morris. "The expanded curriculum in the areas of historic preservation, conservation, and protection of our historic buildings will be a great asset to the history and legacy of Tuskegee University."

Two years ago, Tuskegee University's Department of Architecture and the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania entered a teaching-fieldwork-research partnership, supported by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, resulting in the formation of the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites in 2020.  The goals of the new activities are focused on building capacity among HBCUs, other stewardship organizations, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) professionals—to address historic deficits in the ability to train, commission, and direct preservation efforts of many kinds (technical, design, documentation, storytelling, redevelopment). Ultimately, this work will transform the preservation field nationally by creating and opening opportunities and the capacity to seize them. 

Dr. Kwesi Daniels
Dr. Kwesi Daniels, PI

"Tuskegee is positioned to create a new model of preservation degree, centered on community-serving preservation strategies, financial sustainability and multifunctional sites, aimed at issues of built environment stewardship as well as public history, archiving, and interpretation-storytelling." "Curriculum is the centerpiece of the whole effort, linking practice, politics, community impact, and making a generational change in the preservation field," said Dr. Carla Jackson Bell, professor, and dean of the School of Architecture and Science and Management (TSACS) and grant Co-PI.

Tuskegee will be the central organizing point of the work. The proposed funding expands their teaching of historic preservation in the formal curriculum and through outreach projects with partners. UPenn's CPCRS, with the NTHP African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund as a project collaborator, will help grow the capacity and affirm the potential of Tuskegee, AAACRHSC, and an emergent consortium of heritage sites in Philadelphia. Our collaborations will create replicable partnership models for other traditional/academic preservation programs nationally.

"The field of historic preservation, long dominated by institutions marked by white privilege, has historically had a blind spot for many issues of significance for Black heritage—from listings and leadership to public policies and university study opportunities," said Dr. Kwesi Daniels, interim department head of Architecture and grant PI. "The partners will jointly explore several options for expanding the preservation curriculum at Tuskegee – considering a range of undergraduate and graduate options, possibilities including sub matriculation or other direct partnerships with UPenn, and trades-based training programs directly connected to workforce development programs."

In addition, other team members of the grant include Brent Leggs, the executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and Dr. Randall Mason, who teaches in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation and is a Professor in the Department of City & Regional Planning at the UPenn.

About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

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