Preserving the Experiences and Achievements of African-AmericansPreserving the Experiences and Achievements of African-Americans

Preserving the Experiences and Achievements of African-AmericansEbenzer Bapist Church in Atlanta is one dozens of SAT projects that provide a vital connection to the African-American experience in America.
Save America’s Treasures (SAT) projects are preserving the experiences, achievements and contributions by African –Americans to this country. From Harriet Tubman to Rosa Parks to Alvin Ailey and those who are never found in the history books, SAT projects illuminate and bring to life the stories that are part of the fabric of this country’s history and culture. Since 1999, Save America’s Treasures has awarded 80 grants to projects that reflect the diversity of the African-American experience and include: archaeological artifacts, landmark churches, businesses and the works of individuals from abolitionists to artists to average citizens. A handful of these projects offer a glimpse of the stories these and other SAT projects have to tell. 

 African Meeting House, Boston, MA
Save America’s Treasures 2001
Built in 1806 by the free African American community living on Beacon Hill, the African Meeting House is the oldest extant Black church in America. It became the center of the Abolitionist Movement where William Lloyd Garrison, Maria Stewart, Wendell Phillips, Sarah Grimke, and Frederick Douglass spoke against slavery. It was here that the famed Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Regiment was formed to fight for the Union in the Civil War.  Churches continue to play a major role in African-American history  and many of those are SAT projects:  Ebenezer Baptist Church (1999),  Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church (2004), Bethel Baptist Church (2005), Sixteenth Street Baptist  Church (2006),  Centennial Baptist Church, (2006) and Race Street Meetinghouse (2007).

Drayton Hall, Charleston, SC
Save America’s Treasures 2000, National Historic Landmark
Drayton Hall is one of the oldest plantation houses that remains in its nearly original condition. On the grounds is oldest African-American cemetery in America and this site is one of many places that shed light on slavery and have been preserved through SAT grants. Among them are archaeological collections from the nearby Yaughan and Curriboo plantations, which comprise one of the most important perspectives on the everyday lives of enslaved Africans and African Americans. Similar SAT sites include:  Sotterley Plantation (2000), African House, Yucca House and Prudhomme-Roquier House (2000) Hampton National Historic Site (1999) and North End Plantation Tabby Buildings (2003).  

 Mary Church Terrell House, Washington, DC
Save America’s Treasures 2004, National Historic Landmark
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) was born during the Civil War and her life’s work for universal suffrage, equal opportunity and protections under the law for all individuals was one of the cornerstones of the Civil Rights movement. She in turn carried on the work of Frederick Douglass  and the anti-slavery movement before her, and she would be followed by more civil right leaders. This progression toward civil rights is reflected in many SAT projects: Cornell University’s Anti-Slavery Pamphlets Collection (1999), Temple University’s William Still Collection of Papers, Photographs and Abolitionist Pamphlets (2009), Harriet Tubman Home (2000), Rosa Parks Bus (2002), Public Radio Broadcast of the March on Washington (2008) Tougaloo Civil Rights Collections (2010), and the WLBT Newsfilm Collection (2005).

African-American Scrapbooks, Emory University Library, Atlanta, GA
Save America’s Treasures 2010
These scrapbooks narrate lives that otherwise never would be recorded and through the eyes of vaudeville performers, former slaves, artists, students, preachers, and others, these documents open a unique window to everyday life. The Reverend L.O Taylor Collection (2007) offers similar insider knowledge in the form of “outsider art”. Save America’s projects touch on many aspects of the African-American experience from entrepreneurs like Thomas Day  (2000) , a 19th-century cabinetmaker, and Madam C.J. Walker  to neighborhoods for professionals and laborers like the  Weeksville Houses (2001) and the Jackson Ward Historic NHL District (1999), as well as the Chicago Urban League Records  (2005) and the Rosenwald Negro Rural Schools Photograph collection (2004).

Dance Theatre of Harlem. New York, NY
Save America’s Treasures 2010
The Dance Theatre of Harlem was the first African-American professional ballet company and it was founded shortly after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King. Like all dance companies whose work is ephemeral, the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s rich legacy of firsts was recorded on hundreds of deteriorating videotape. Like other great African-American artists so much of their future depends on the very basic issue of creating a safe environment for the preservation of their work so it continues to be seen, used and understood. Save America’s Treasures has ensured generations of Americans will continue to experience the work of dancers like Katherine Dunham (2000), Bill T Jones (2004) and Alvin Ailey (2005);  musicians like Louis Armstrong (1999) ; photographer Gordon Parks (2010); and poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar (1999). Places are also central to this artistic legacy and SAT has supported the restoration of the Howard Theatre (2008), a legendary performance space, and Dockery Farms (2008) in rural Mississippi that served as a crossroads for the development of the blues.

John H. Baker Jazz Film Collection, Kansas City, MO
Save America’s Treasures 2002
The twentieth century revolutionized music by providing the tools to record first-hand the sound, voices and performances of artists. Save America’s Treasures projects have helped restore  film and audio tapes like the John H Baker Jazz Film Collection, which spans thousands of performances  from the 1920s through the 1970s of American Jazz artists like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Bassie; the Alan Lomax Archive (2001), which incorporates a broad range of American musical vernacular from the blues to bluegrass; and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Recorded Sound (2007) archive, which captures the orchestral and jazz music of the 20th-century and history of African-American musicians. These archives are fundamental to keeping alive America’s musical traditions, not only are they the source for telling the story of American Jazz like Ken Burn’s  documentary, but they also sow the seeds  of inspiration for the next generation.