Two historic congregations in New Orleans will receive Preserving Black Churches grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The grants, which will help the churches make critical repairs to their historic buildings, were announced yesterday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

One of the local grantees is St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mid City, which was established by Free People of Color in 1848. Known as the first AME church in the Deep South, it has been a bastion for civil rights activity since its inception and continues to serve the community in myriad ways. The PRC was honored to assist Rev. Demetrese Phillips with the church’s grant application, which focused largely on the rebuilding and replacement of the church’s historic roof spires, which blew off during Hurricane Katrina 19 years ago.

The missing spires led to water intrusion inside the church, which also will be remedied thanks to this grant, as will settling in the rear part of the historic structure that needs shoring. The church has done a commendable job raising thousands of dollars to start the repairs; now, this $200,000 grant will allow them to finally finish and move forward as a congregation with a fully restored, beautiful historic church building.

The second local grantee is St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Tremé, which had been raising money towards its restoration when Hurricane Ida brought significant new damage to the circa 1842 structure in 2021. The church was also established by Free People of Color, but was attended, from its opening, by white citizens, enslaved individuals and others, making it the most integrated historic church in the country.

St. Augustine’s congregation has been holding Mass in the adjoining Parish Hall since Hurricane Ida as work continues on the church.

We are thrilled that the National Trust’s significant investment in New Orleans is continuing, and we’re grateful to have been able to assist in St. James AME’s upcoming revitalization.