The U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service announced that the City of Shreveport will receive $500,000 for physical preservation of the Old Galilee Missionary Baptist Church for a Civil Rights Museum. The church, now owned by the City of Shreveport, was built in 1877. It was in operation until 1975.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s first ever recorded Civil Rights speech was given at Old Galilee in Shreveport 60 years ago on August 14, 1958. His speech was a work in progress. You can even hear what would become key quotes from “I Have a Dream” which wouldn’t be spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial until 5 years later. Listen to it here:

Dr. C.O. Simpkins, civil rights leader.

Dr. C.O. Simpkins spoke to the Shreveport Times in 2014 about the proposed museum, saying of Dr. King, “He made the best speech he’s ever made right here in this church. “This is the beginning of history of the Civil Rights Movement right here in Shreveport. He helped initiate that.”

Last year, it was reported that the building had sustained substantial damage. An architectural plan paid commissioned in 2015 and paid for by the city estimated that the first round of renovations would cost $1.6 million.

Shreveport’s project was one of four in Louisiana to receive grant funding to preserve sites and highlight stories related to the African American struggle for equality in the 20th century.

“I am thrilled that we were able to secure funding that will help us begin the process of restoring a site that will ultimately serve as a repository of the trials and triumphs of African American people in our city,” said Mayor Ollie Tyler.

Old Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Shreveport.

The grant will help restore the historic church which has been vacant for nearly 25 years, causing major deterioration to the facility. The museum will provide educational opportunities for residents and visitors to learn the historical journey of African Americans in this part of the state.

“We are extremely excited and pleased that the grant is being awarded,” said the Rev. C.E. McLain, President of the North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition. “We are looking forward to working closely with the City to bring to fruition all that the grant will afford toward the restoration of the Old Galilee facility, and working toward the first phase of the Civil Rights Museum.”