Karamu House receives $ 75,000 grant to restore the residence of poet and playwright Langston Hughes

Thursday July 15, African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program within the National Trust for Historic Preservationannounced $ 3 million in support to help preserve African American monuments, including a matching grant of $ 75,000 to Karamu House.

The grant is to restore the apartment poet and playwright Langston Hughes’ residence at Karamu House, to be used as short-term accommodation for emerging artists of color as artists in residence, said Ann Barnett, director of communications and institutional development at Karamu.

Langston hughes Barnett says that since the start of Karamu House, the country’s oldest producing African-American theater has been a welcoming place for all races. The founders of Karamu House, Russell and Rowena Jelliffe, had a particularly close relationship with the Harlem Renaissance playwright and poet, Langston Hughes.

Hughes began spending time at the Settlement Home in his late teens, where his nascent artistry was nurtured and encouraged. Hughes then wrote and made his debut in several plays at Karamu, including his very first play, “The Golden Piece”, in 1921.

Throughout his life, Hughes regularly returned to Cleveland, staying at Karamu in his residential suite on the second floor of the theater wing.

“To both preserve and honor the residence of one of America’s greatest black writers, Karamu will restore the suite to temporary accommodation for some emerging African-American artists who are part of the growing artist residency program. of Karamu, ”Barnett said. “The two-bedroom residence includes a kitchen, a full bathroom, and a living and dining area.”

Barnett says the space is in urgent need of repair and restoration. The ceilings of each of the two bedrooms are deteriorating; there is mold all over the apartment; the plumbing of the bathroom and the kitchen is not functional; and structural problems exist.

The radiator heating system needs repair and no cooling system is in place. The carpet is worn and the cement walls are bare. There are no working appliances in the kitchen, and the appliances in the bathroom are worn out and unusable.

Barnett looks on the bright side, however. “However, the space has its original door moldings, doors and doorknobs, and kitchen cabinets,” she says.

With $ 50 million in funding, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is the largest preservation effort ever undertaken to support the longevity of African American historic sites. The July 15 announcement represents the single largest disbursement in the Action Fund’s four-year history.

“The recipients of this funding exemplify centuries of African American resilience, activism and achievement,” said Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the Action Fund. “Some of their stories are known, and others have not yet been. Together, they help document the true and complex history of our nation. ‘

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