RICHMOND – Governor McAuliffe today announced a more than $400,000 grant from the National Park Service to restore the historic Third Street Bethel AME Church in Richmond. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will partner with church trustees to rehabilitate the property and update existing documents to more accurately reflect the Church’s significance in the local African-American community and the Civil Rights Movement.
“The shared experiences of the African-American culture and the Civil Rights movement are central to understanding the depth and complexity of Virginia’s history,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at today’s announcement. “This preservation grant will help restore the Third Street Bethel AME Church building to its original prominence and allow us to have a better understanding of the central role community leaders in Richmond and Virginia played in the fight for equality. I commend the National Park Service, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and especially the leadership at Third Street Bethel AME Church for their collaboration and advocacy to ensure the significance of Bethel AME Church and its congregation is maintained in the history of Virginia.”
Since its construction in 1857, the Third Street Bethel AME Church has served as a congregation point for Richmond’s African American community. As one of the only remaining antebellum black churches in the country, the church was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1978 and is a contributing part of the Jackson Ward Historic District. Over its 160-year history, the building has housed many historically significant events, including the establishment of the AME Church in Virginia and Maggie Walker’s now-famous “Nickels to Dollars” speech. For more than a century, the Third Street Bethel AME Church has provided a safe space for Richmond’s African American community to gather, plan, and advocate for equality.
“With this week’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day, I can imagine no better time to reflect on the rich history and many achievements of Virginia’s African-American community,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. “Every one of us, regardless of race, owes a debt of gratitude to the black leaders of the past for pushing Virginia forward. This grant demonstrates our renewed commitment, as a Commonwealth and nation, to protecting and building upon their legacy.”
The grant was awarded through the new African American Civil Rights Grant Program, funded by the Historic Preservation Fund. Created by Congress in 1976, the Historic Preservation Fund is capitalized using royalties paid by energy companies operating on the federally owned Outer Continental Shelf and not from federal tax dollars.
“The Department is honored and very grateful that Virginia has received generous funding from the new Civil Rights grant program. In recognition of the Commonwealth’s important place in the Civil Rights movement, Virginia is receiving two of 39 grants, one in Richmond and another in Danville. The funding for Third Street Bethel AME will make possible much-needed repairs, as well as update the historical documentation to reflect the church’s important place in the history of the Civil Rights movement,” said Virginia Department of Historic Resources Director Julie Langan.
“Our congregation is deeply grateful for the support of the National Park Service and excited by our partnership with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources,” said Pastor Rueben J. Boyd, Jr. “This Civil Rights Grant will support much-needed roof repairs and allow a full restoration of our 161-year-old house of worship.”