The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) will be investing in capital improvements at two Adams County sites with a portion of the recently awarded Lilly Endowment funds.
The two sites include the Huddleston Memorial Chapel at Natchez College, which is owned by the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi (GMBSC), and Historic Jefferson College (HJC), an MDAH site.
Nearly two weeks ago, Lilly Endowment Inc. granted MDAH $2.5 million to promote projects focused on the understanding and interpretation of the role of religion in Mississippi history and culture. Lilly Endowment made the grant through its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative, a nationwide effort to help museums and other cultural institutions improve the public understanding of religion.
Now, the MDAH historic preservation team will oversee a grant of $750,000 for the GMBSC’s renovation of the college’s chapel building. The GMBSC is working to transform the chapel and the other existing building, the women’s dormitory, into the Baptist Heritage and Arts Center.
“One of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi’s great accomplishments was the founding and operation of Natchez College in 1884 to provide schooling and social services for Black children beyond the limited scope provided by the State of Mississippi,” Reverend Reginald Buckley, GMBSC president said. “The GMBSC is grateful for the Lilly Endowment’s support for the restoration of this historic site. We look forward to working with our partners at MDAH to realize our vision for Natchez College.”
Additionally, MDAH will use $36,000 of the Lilly Endowment funds to create an interpretive center and a historic preservation field school at the Historic Jefferson College. MDAH will also commission an archaeological survey as a basis for the church footprint that will be recreated using ground-level stones or bricks, as well as develop interpretive signage for the Methodist church site.
“Our mission is to tell all Mississippi stories, and the influence of religion is among the most important,” Katie Blount, MDAH director said. “The support of the Lilly Endowment is critical to our goals of reaching a broader audience at all of our sites and interpreting our state’s history at Natchez College and Historic Jefferson College.”