Arkansas Black History Commission awards grant to historic First Missionary Baptist Church for Bible conservation project

Arkansas Black History Commission awards grant to historic First Missionary Baptist Church for Bible conservation project

By BCN Staff – March 2, 2022 – The Arkansas Black History Commission of Arkansas at its recent board meeting on Feb. 24 awarded funds from the Curtis H. Sykes Memorial Grant program to a historic Bible conservation project.

A grant in the amount of $3,500 was awarded to the First Missionary Baptist Church in Little Rock (above) to conserve and restore a historic Bible that has been a part of the church’s history for at least 125 years. This Bible was donated to the church by a Black Civil War veteran and was used by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his sermon at the church’s 188th anniversary in April 1963. After the restoration, the Bible will be included in an exhibit at the church.

The grant money will be used to repair and restore the Bible, research when it was published and learn more about the background of the man who made the donation. The Curtis H. Sykes grant is named after the late Curtis Sykes, who was born in 1930 in the Dark Hollow community of North Little Rock and was a tireless community activist and historian.

Sykes was an educator for over 34 years, serving as a school principal and a charter member of the North Little Rock History Commission. The North Little Rock education was also an original member of the Black History Advisory Committee, now BHCA in 1991. He served as its chairman from 1993 until his death on Sept. 9, 2007. During his time as the BHCA chair, he pushed for legislation to have African American history taught in Arkansas schools, leading to the pass of Act 326 of 1997. The former chairman was posthumously awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Historical Association in 2008. In 2009, the Arkansas General Assembly named this grant program in his memory (Act 660).

In other BHCA business, the commission also elected Dr. Jesse Hargrove as the new chair, and Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch as vice chair. The commission also welcomed its newest member Walter Washington, who was sworn in Feb. 22.

The commission also determined the theme for Its June symposium to be “African American and Religion in Arkansas.” The symposium will be held Saturday, June 4 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, located at 501 W. 9th Street in downtown Little Rock.

The next meeting of The Black History Commission of Arkansas is scheduled for May 19, at 12 p.m. via Zoom. To obtain login information, please contact Tatyana Oyinloye, African American history coordinator for the Arkansas State Archives, at tatyana.oyinloye@arkansas.gov or (501) 682-6892.
 
The BHCA is affiliated with and advises the Arkansas State Archives and meets quarterly. The Curtis H. Sykes Memorial Grant Program supports African American historic and historical preservation and public programming projects in Arkansas. Grants are awarded year-round and past projects include historical research, exhibits, workshops, publications, oral history interviews, documentary films, and cemetery preservation and documentation.

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