Preserving black history, culture through church grants in Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va. – Historical churches in Roanoke are looking to preserve black history and culture through church grants.

Some churches, like Hill Street Baptist Church in Roanoke, started from humble beginnings.

“They started with six members in a little house and it had grown to what you see right now,” said Reverend Preston Tyler.

Now, the church is celebrating its 130th anniversary and Tyler said he’s hoping to expand to make room for the growing congregation.

“Maybe in the future, we could actually build and add on to this sanctuary,” said Tyler.

A grant through the National Trust for Historic Preservation could help – the Preserving Black Churches grant program is designed to preserve historic black houses of worship, with either active or non-active congregations.


Grants range from $50,000 to $200,000 and can be spent on capital improvements, staffing, and operations – Money that Tyler said could be put to good use.

“It’s information that I didn’t even know about,” said Tyler. “And I’m quite sure a lot of other churches didn’t even know about.”

The Star City is filled with historical black churches, from First Baptist Church-Gainsboro to Mount Moriah Baptist Church, which opened in 1858, originating as a Sunday School for slaves.

After urban renewal wiped out Gainsboro’s thriving African American community in the 1960s and 70s, forcing Hill Street Baptist Church to relocate, Tyler said his congregation persevered.

“As the black community, all we had was the black church,” said Tyler. “On Monday through Friday, on Monday through Saturday, we were this, we were that we were domestics, we were cooks, we were all of that. But on Sunday morning, we felt like we were somebody.”


Just as church elders worked to keep Hill Street Baptist Church alive, this grant program can help keep the history of other black churches alive for generations to come.

The deadline to apply is September 2, 2022. You can learn more about the grant program and how to apply here.

Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 – All rights reserved.

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