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Black history museum gets EDC grant

Bessie Jackson

Community activist Bessie Jackson details plans for a Black history museum next door to St. Frederick’s Baptist Church during a the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors meeting on May 3. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

A $10,000 grant will help make a November groundbreaking for a proposed Black history museum possible. The Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors awarded a community leverage grant for the museum’s construction during its regular meeting on Wednesday, May 3. The museum will be located at 311 Avenue N at St. Frederick’s Baptist Church.

“November is a big finale, God willing,” said museum organizer and community activist Bessie Jackson, who spoke to the EDC about the project. “We’re going to have two-by-fours, and everybody that wants to can come sign that two-by-four and put their scripture on there because we’re going to dedicate it to the community. This is our community. We are a part of the community.”

Each year, the Marble Falls EDC allocates money through community leverage grants to provide matching funds for projects that enhance the quality of life for residents or improve the well-being of the city. Since 2013, the EDC has awarded more than $800,000 in community leverage grants.

The museum will create exhibits and archives on the historical achievements of Black residents in the Highland Lakes while also memorializing the struggles and achievements of Black people throughout history.

“The museum is going to let everybody know, not the negative, but the fact that the history is there,” Jackson said. “History repeats itself if you don’t fix it. We want to try and fix it.”

The museum would be one-of-a-kind for the area, she continued.

“It would be a first for this area,” she said. “If you don’t go to Alabama or Georgia or to Austin to see (the George Washington Carver Museum), you don’t see (Black history museums). We want to have our own, right here.”

Top exhibits planned for the museum include the life stories of enslaved people in Burnet County and the history of Black schools in the area. 

Jackson hopes the museum will inspire local Black and multiracial children.

“There are so many multicultural and multiracial children that don’t know who they are or where they are,” she said. “They have a place.” 

Construction is projected to cost about $300,000. Organizers have already raised over $40,000 for the project. Fundraisers are planned for May 5 and May 12-13 to bring in more money. 

“We have a lot of things planned,” Jackson said. “Fundraiser, fundraiser, fundraiser — because everything costs so much.”

Supporters have also applied for several grants outside of the EDC. If awarded, those grants would unlock an additional $30,000 for construction.

“We have three outstanding grants that we have written to do different things,” Jackson said.

The EDC money will be available once all other funds have been secured.

“This is a commitment for funding,” EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher explained to the board. “It will basically be the last bit of funding before they begin construction or get a (Certificate of Occupancy), or something like that.”

To apply for a grant for a nonprofit or community event, visit the Marble Falls EDC website.