Local civil rights icon Pastor CE McClain talks about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times)
The City of Shreveport will receive $500,000 for physical preservation of the Old Galilee Missionary Baptist Church for a Civil Rights Museum, the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service announced Monday.
The historic church at the corner of Williamson and Snow Streets is a landmark to the civil rights movement in Shreveport. Martin Luther King Jr. twice gave speeches within its walls.
The North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition for years has worked to raise funds through donations and grants to renovate the church for use as a civil rights museum.
Monday’s announcement was another step in making their vision become a reality.
“I am thrilled that we were able to secure funding that will help us begin the process of restoring a site that will ultimately serve as a repository of the trials and triumphs of African American people in our city,” said Mayor Ollie Tyler.
The grant will help restore the historic church which has been vacant for nearly 25 years, causing major deterioration to the facility. The museum will provide educational opportunities for residents and visitors to learn the historical journey of African Americans in this part of the state.
“We are extremely excited and pleased that the grant is being awarded,” said the Rev. C.E. McLain, president of the North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition. “We are looking forward to working closely with the City to bring to fruition all that the grant will afford toward the restoration of the Old Galilee facility, and working toward the first phase of the Civil Rights Museum.”
In 2015, an architectural plan paid for by the city estimated phase one renovation work at $1.6 million. It would include salvage work, constructing a parking lot and adding a memorial garden.
Old Galilee Baptist Church was built just west of downtown Shreveport in 1877 by freed black slaves.
It was home to the same congregation from 1917 to 1975, when it closed. It has stood empty since then. Today, it is owned by the city of Shreveport.
The church was at one time a hub for the Civil Rights movement in Shreveport.
It served as a place for adults to organize nonviolent protests and to teach children how to integrate peacefully into Caddo Parish schools.
It hosted King’s locally famous “Speech at Galilee” in 1958, thought by some to be one of his first speeches recorded on video.
King visited Shreveport again in 1960 for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The City of Shreveport acquired the church in 1993 as part of a land swap involving the SPAR baseball field.
In 2013, members of the civil rights coalition approached the city about restoring the church and turning it into a civil rights museum. The city provided $45,000 in 2014 for initial museum planning. The next year, a design was completed.
More than $12 million in grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service on Monday for 51 projects in 24 states.
Shreveport’s project was one of four in Louisiana to receive grant funding to preserve sites and highlight stories related to the African American struggle for equality in the 20th century.
Shreveport received the largest grant issued within the state.
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