Help us create an African American Cultural Heritage Center in the hometown of W.E.B. Du Bois

Clinton Church Restoration (CCR) is restoring the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in downtown Great Barrington for adaptive reuse as an African American heritage site and cultural center dedicated to educating the public about the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois and the Berkshires’ rich African American history.

Located at 9 Elm Court, the church was the spiritual, cultural, and political heart of Black life in the southern Berkshire community for nearly 130 years. The A.M.E. Zion Society that built the church in 1886-87, was a formative influence in the life of Du Bois, the pioneering author, intellectual and NAACP co-founder who was born and raised in Great Barrington. The shingle-style church is also historically and architecturally significant for its association with the religious and cultural heritage of African Americans in rural New England and as a distinctive example of 19th-century vernacular church architecture. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Clinton Church Restoration’s phased program to restore and repurpose the former church will return it to the center of community life in Du Bois’ hometown, where it will be transformed into a cultural hub inspired by his work as a seminal writer, scholar and activist of international stature. Exhibits and programming will also honor local African American history and culture. Key components of the center will be a flexible performance space, interpretive exhibits and artifacts, a visitor center, oral history recording studio, library, community meeting space and commercial kitchen.

“This initiative will not only preserve an important piece of African American history in rural New England, it is vital to interpreting the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois in his hometown… Interpretative exhibits and programing at the church will add an important piece of the Du Bois story for visitors who come to Great Barrington to walk the grounds of his boyhood homesite, visit the downtown site of his birth and learn about his complicated life and legacy.” 

—David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning Du Bois biographer

Donate now to support this historic project



A Community Mission

Clinton Church Restoration was formed in late 2016 by a group of local community members concerned about the fate of the historic property. The church, vacant for two years, had recently been deconsecrated and put on the market. With longtime congregant Wray Gunn serving as chair, the group incorporated as a Massachusetts nonprofit and began fundraising to save the church. Thanks to the contributions of more than 400 donors, we surpassed our initial $100,000 fundraising goal in just five months and in May 2017, purchased the property.

Now a 501(c)(3),  Clinton Church Restoration’s mission is to restore the historic property for adaptive reuse as a vibrant heritage site and visitor center that interprets the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, celebrates the Berkshires’ rich African American heritage and honors the history of the church and the work of its first female pastor, the Rev. Esther Dozier.

A Plan for the Future

Clinton Church Restoration has been working with key stakeholders, architects, designers, planners, and consultants to develop a plan for the preservation and ultimate use of the property since the beginning. Efforts to date include:

    • Visioning Process (2017): The Jackson Design Group facilitated a public session and two charrettes to garner public input on the project and engage key stakeholders. 
    • Asset Mapping and Design Charette (2017): Partners for Sacred Places and the Jackson Design Group facilitated an asset mapping workshop and design charrette with architects and key stakeholders.
    • Historic Structure Report (2018): Undertaken by a team led by Clark and Green Architects, this 142-page HSR documents the church’s social and architectural history, assesses existing conditions, and identifies and prioritizes treatment recommendations.
    • Project Architect Hired (2019): The award-winning firm Huff + Gooden Architects was selected to lead the design team for the restoration.
    • Construction Kickoff (2019): General contractor Larochelle Construction began work in late October to replace the church roof and repair related damage.
    • Exhibit Design Team Hired (2020):  A team lead by Proun Design was selected to develop a comprehensive interpretive plan for the site, design all exhibits and interpretive elements, and oversee exhibit fabrication and installation.

The preservation of the historic Clinton Church, which is part of a growing movement to preserve African American historic places around the country, has garnered significant attention. In addition to local press, the project has been mentioned in Essence Magazine and Architectural Digest.

Grant funding for the project’s initial phase of stabilization work has come from the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grants program, through CCR partner Housatonic Heritage, an emergency grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Projects Fund, Community Preservation Act funding from the Town of Great Barrington, and the Feigenbaum Foundation.

CCR has also received grants for planning and exhibit design from the National Park Service, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Trust for Historic Preservation African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors, Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, the Jane & Jack Fitzpatrick Trust, and the Feigenbaum Foundation. COVID-related operating support has been provided by the Jane & Jack Fitzpatrick Trust, and by Mass Humanities through the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the 2020 CARES Act.


NPS awards $495,322 grant for Clinton Church restoration

The historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, photo by Silo Media The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area (Housatonic Heritage) has received a $495,322 grant from the National Park Service for continued restoration work on the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion ...
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Outdoor Interpretive Display Installed

An outdoor interpretive display that looks to both the past and the future was installed at the Clinton Church Restoration project site on May 10, 2021. The eight-panel kiosk, which was developed in collaboration with the UMass Amherst Public History Program, uses images and text ...
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Rhapsody in Black, a Virtual Play and Community Conversation

This event has concluded. A recording of the community conversation is available here. In partnership with the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Clinton Church Restoration is pleased to present Rhapsody in Black, a one-man show written and performed by LeLand Gantt ...
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Women of Color Giving Circle Annual Kwanzaa Celebration

Kwanzaa is a secular holiday that celebrates African and African American culture and history from Dec. 26th to January 1st. Each day, one of the 7 principles of Kwanzaa is represented. On December 29 at 6pm, the Women of Color ...
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African American Civil War Veterans and the Clinton Church

By David Levinson The role of Black Civil War veterans in Black communities in the North in the decades following the war is one that has been neglected in African American history. Recent research tells us that taken as a ...
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Online Community Read of The Souls of Black Folk

Classic work by W.E.B. Du Bois to be explored during Clinton Church Restoration's 14-week series GREAT BARRINGTON, MA, September 22, 2020 — Clinton Church Restoration is hosting an online community read of The Souls of Black Folk byW.E.B. Du Bois ...
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W.E.B. Du Bois to George Floyd: 150 Years of Resistance

The Triplex Cinema, Berkshire International Film Festival and Clinton Church Restoration present a weekend of free films GREAT BARRINGTON, MA, September 15, 2020 —The Triplex Cinema and Berkshire International Film Festival have teamed up with the nonprofit Clinton Church Restoration ...
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When Architecture and Racial Justice Intersect

"[W]hile it would be easy to think that architecture has little to do with racial justice and civil rights, the fight to save African American historic places proves that preservation is political. If we want to educate future generations about ...
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We need to tell these stories. We need to say their names.

In his 1903 classic, The Souls of Black Folk, the ever prescient W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about the very issues with which America is now grappling: “Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, ...
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Exhibition Designer Selected for African American Heritage Site and Cultural Center

Proun Design to provide interpretive planning and exhibit design services for the Clinton Church Restoration project in Great Barrington GREAT BARRINGTON, MA (February 4, 2020) — Clinton Church Restoration has engaged Proun Design, LLC, to provide interpretive planning and exhibit ...
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Help us create an African American Cultural Heritage Center in the hometown of W.E.B. Du Bois

Clinton Church Restoration is creating an African American heritage site and cultural center at the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington. Once restored, this new, as-yet-unnamed venue will offer a visitor center, interpretive exhibits, flexible performance space, and active contemporary programming that honors the church’s important role as a place of community, shares our region’s rich African American history, and interprets the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer and NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois.

Your gift will help us preserve the past, connect it to the present, and inspire future generations!

Donate by mail:

Clinton Church Restoration
P.O. Box 1075
Great Barrington, MA 01230

Please make your check payable to Clinton Church Restoration, Inc.

Have questions? Contact us at admin [at] clintonchurchrestoration [ dot] org