BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — In honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, a $4 million grant is preserving historic Black churches across the country.

On Monday, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund announced its investment in 35 churches nationwide. Five of those churches are in Alabama, two of which are in Birmingham. The money will help to preserve their past while looking forward to the future of the civil right movement.

Executive Director Brent Leggs said the funds preserve African American historic sites of activism, achievement and resilience.

“We wanted to both honor Dr. King for a life of service, and we believe that our investment in communities across the country is also a kind of service,” Leggs said.

With this grant, $55,000 will go to develop a preservation plan at Old Sardis Baptist Church and $200,000 will help to launch an endowment fund campaign at 16th Street Baptist Church.

16th Street Baptist Church Board of Trustees Chairman Theodore Debro said their plan is to raise $2 million in the next two years to preserve the church’s past.

“Since we are a small congregation, we really need to have some funds and some resources to maintain the buildings,” Debro said. “It’s one that we need to share with our children and preserve for our children.”

The 16th Street Baptist Church is a sanctuary that has faced many instances of destruction, yet stands tall today. A statue of Dr. King overlooks the site of the cultural memory.

“Historic Black churches are some of the earliest institutions founded within Black communities,” Leggs said. “They anchor our neighborhoods; our religious and cultural lives and they are important contributors to the overall health of our nation.”

The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund was launched in 2017 and has invested in 185 historic places nationwide to tell America’s story.