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Samuel Harrison Society Restores, Preserves Pittsfield Home With Cultural Facilities Funds

May 30, 2012

Kelsey Abbruzzese, MassDevelopment, 617-330-2086 & 617-448-9077
Churchill Cotton, Samuel Harrison Society, 413-395-4733

MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council have provided a $63,000 grant to The Samuel Harrison Society, a Pittsfield nonprofit dedicated to restoring and preserving Reverend Samuel Harrison's home. The organization will use the home to teach Harrison’s values and provide greater insight into African-American history. The Samuel Harrison Society will use the grant to continue the restoration at 82 Third Street, with interior work expected to be complete by the end of the summer. The Society finished the exterior restoration in 2009.

“The Samuel Harrison Society provides a unique lens into the abolitionist and Civil War history of the Commonwealth,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “We’re pleased to support the Society’s mission as it finishes work on the Reverend’s home and prepares for the grand opening.”

Samuel Harrison, born into slavery in 1818, came to Pittsfield in 1850 as the pastor of the Second Congregational Church. For more than 50 years, Harrison lectured and wrote essays, pamphlets, sermons, and books condemning racism. He also served as chaplain of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-black infantry to fight in the Civil War that the movie “Glory” featured. During the Civil War, Harrison argued with President Abraham Lincoln over equal pay for black soldiers. In 1864, Congress granted equal pay to the 180,000 black soldiers who fought for the Union Army. PBS produced a 2005 documentary about Harrison's life titled “A Trumpet at The Walls of Jericho: The Untold Story of Samuel Harrison.”

“The Samuel Harrison Society is very grateful to have been chosen by MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council as a recipient of such as generous grant,” said Samuel Harrison Society Board President Churchill Cotton. “The grant will allow us to complete the restoration of Rev. Harrison’s home and open it as a museum to display how important Rev. Harrison’s life was in helping to develop a country which supported equality to all during the Civil War period.”

MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council administer the Cultural Facilities Fund, an initiative of the Commonwealth to increase public and private investment in cultural facilities throughout the state. Created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2006, the Fund offers capital grants, feasibility and technical assistance grants, and systems replacement grants for eligible nonprofits engaged in the arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences. The Fund has awarded more than $44 million in grants to more than 200 cultural organizations across Massachusetts. For more information, visit the MassDevelopment and Massachusetts Cultural Council websites.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2011, MassDevelopment financed or managed more than 300 projects generating investment of $3.8 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create more than 10,000 jobs (2,547 permanent and 8,129 construction), and build or rehabilitate more than 1,000 residential units.