U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell visited two Birmingham churches that were focal points of the civil rights movement on Monday to announce a new round of federal funding to preserve their historic buildings.
Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville and St. Paul United Methodist Church in the downtown civil rights district both will receive grants to maintain and improve their campuses.
Each church will receive $750,000 as part of a $3.1 million that Sewell helped secure for historic civil rights sites in Alabama this year.
Bethel Baptist Church will use that money to preserve the historic building where the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth preached when he was pastor there from 1956-61 and used it as a headquarters to lead efforts to break down Birmingham’s segregation laws.
Bethel also received an additional grant of $750,000 to build a family life and child center at the back of its newer sanctuary.
“I’m truly elated at the investment that’s being made into our community,” said Bethel Baptist Church Pastor Thomas Wilder.
“During last year’s appropriations process, we fought hard to ensure that we included funding in the federal budget for local projects right here in Alabama,” Sewell said. “Our communities know best what they need.”
“We are grateful to the National Parks Service and grateful to you and others who are committed to making sure that this space and other spaces like it are made available to future generations,” said the Rev. Richard Stryker, pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church.
In May, Sewell had announced over $3.1 million in funding from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program that is being awarded to preserve historic sites in Alabama related to Civil Rights and the African American struggle for equality. Sewell has worked to increase funding for the NPS African American Civil Rights Grant Program to preserve America’s Civil Rights sites and HBCUs.
NPS awarded the following grants, which total $3,149,900, for historic sites in Alabama:
- $74,800 to the City of Anniston for Story Mapping and Formalization of Operations and Maintenance for the Anniston Civil Rights Trail
- $750,000 to the Historic Bethel Baptist Church Community Restoration Fund in Birmingham for historic preservation
- $750,000 to the St. Paul United Methodist Church in Birmingham for preservation and restoration
- $750,000 to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery for repair and rehabilitation
- $75,000 to the Alabama Historical Commission in Montgomery for the Freedom Rides Museum Vintage Greyhound Bus Virtual Reality Experience
- $750,000 to the Alabama Historical Commission in Montgomery for rehabilitation of the second floor of the Moore Building
That’s in addition to earlier appropriations for Bethel Baptist, St. Paul United Methodist and other civil rights churches.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell visited St. Paul United Methodist Church in Birmingham on Sept. 11, 2023, to present a federal grant to help the historic civil rights church in its restoration of the building. Pastor Richard Stryker is at lower right. (Photo by Greg Garrison/AL.com)