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Montana Heritage Commission Awarded Prestigious NEH Grant

Virginia City, Montana – The Montana Heritage Commission (MHC) is honored to be among the recipients of a 2021 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) American Rescue Plan Humanities Organizations grant. The MHC project, “African American Heritage on Montana's Mining Frontier,” has been awarded a grant of $191,488.

The African American Heritage on Montana's Mining Frontier project will support MHC staff and several notable scholars, to document the heritage of African American settlers in Virginia City’s gold mining past, work to preserve three residences and buildings that reflect their history and share the stories of these African American pioneers with the public. These properties were home to enterprising Black women, Sarah Bickford and sisters Minerva and Parnethia Coggswell, along with freighter Jack Taylor.

“The African American properties in Virginia City are rare places where the lives of Black settlers are reflected on our early gold mining frontiers,” said Elijah Allen, Executive Director of the Montana Heritage Commission. “In Virginia City, we are fortunate to have three properties where visitors can visit and imagine what life was like for Montana’s Black pioneers, just after the Civil War, in the earliest mining districts."

The two-year project will begin this fall and continue through 2023. Staff of the MHC and consultants will interpret and preserve these important heritage properties with research on the African American settlers and preservation of their buildings, period artifacts and heritage garden restoration, as well as new virtual programming such as a mobile app tour, online exhibits and more.

The consulting team to this project includes University of Oregon Professor Emeritus Dr. Kingston Heath, the Montana State Historic Preservation Office’s Kate Hampton, historian Dr. Delia Hagen, history professor Dr. Torren Gatson of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Chere Jiusto, Executive Director for Preserve Montana.

The NEH received 937 eligible applications and was able to fund 292 organizations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic through this program. Of these, three were awarded in Montana. They include:

  • The Montana Heritage Commission for the African American Heritage project

  • The Crow Language Consortium to produce two books on Crow history

  • Three humanities projects at the University of Montana

The Montana Heritage Commission, a state agency founded in 1997, preserves and manages historic resources in Virginia City, Nevada City and Reeder's Alley and promotes the appreciation of history through quality visitor experiences. For more info visit our website or find us on Facebook.

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