Hill Applauds Grant to Preserve Arkansas’s Civil Rights History

Little Rock, Ark. — Today, the National Park Service (NPS) announced $14 million in African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund grants to fund 51 projects across 20 states and the District of Columbia that will preserve sites and history related to the African American pursuit of fairness and racial justice in the 20th century. Among the recipients the Friends of Dreamland Ballroom Public Access Project was selected to receive $499,723. 

“Completed in 1918, Taborian Hall became a centerpiece of the African American community in central Arkansas and showcased musical greats like Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dizzie Gillespie during its heyday. In recent decades, Taborian Hall had fallen into disrepair and would likely have been demolished had Kerry McCoy and Friends of Dreamland not purchased it with the vision of restoring it to its former glory,” said Congressman Hill. “I commend the National Park Service for allocating nearly $500,000 to preserve the living monument’s importance in the struggle for equality.” 

“People often try to talk you out of your dreams. Tell you all the reasons why your grandiose ideas won’t work. And they’re not always wrong. But this grant is a testament to working hard and staying persistent in pursuit of your dream, even when the path to success is muddled. Buying that old building made no sense, but it just spoke to me in a deep ethereal way. I often say that the building chose me as much as I chose it. After we moved in, the old timers would come by and tell me stories about the building and the people that lived and worked around it,” said Kerry McCoy, President of Flag and Banner. “I began to recognize that I had a responsibility to record and preserve these oral histories before it was too late. I commissioned author Berna Love to write the Temple of Dreams. The book chronicles the history of this wonderful old building and the place of prominence it held in the early 20th century. This grant is a dream come true not just for me but for Arkansas and the people gone by. ”

“Congratulations to Kerry McCoy and Friends of Dreamland, who have done the difficult work of keeping the story of Taborian Hall alive, and thank you to the National Park Service for recognizing the value of this historic place,” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said. “As a youth, I heard many stories from my mother and grandmother about the lore of Taborian Hall, the renowned musical acts who played there, and the tremendous significance Ninth Street had in the lives of African Americans. This grant creates a new opportunity for Little Rock residents and visitors to gain a deeper insight and appreciation for the diversity of our City.” 

“This grant for the restoration of Taborian Hall means that one of the anchors of the once thriving Ninth Street business district will continue to remind residents and visitors of the inspiring story of the African-American community in Little Rock,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and the state historic preservation officer. “I know the entire state joins me in saying thank you to all who embraced saving this important piece of the cultural and historic fabric of Arkansas.”

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