Impact Stories

First-person stories from people impacted by Ford Fund

Cultivating Community– Nurturing Black Heritage at the Douglass Community Center

February, we celebrate Black leaders and Black-led organizations with the annual kick-off of Black History Month. The once week-long event became a month-long celebration in 1976, as a time to honor the legacy and contributions of African Americans.

At Ford Fund, we are amplifying the work of our partner organizations by showcasing their past, present, and vision for the future. In the coming weeks, stay tuned for additional features with Black leaders making an impact in our communities.

In the heart of southwest Haywood County, Tennessee, stands the Douglass Community Center, an active cultural gathering space cultivated by generations of Black families. The Douglass community was rooted in the 1930s when 38 Black farmer families purchased plantation land previously owned by J.E. Douglass. Along with a three-bedroom house, barn, outdoor toilet, water pump and smokehouse on each property, a junior high school and church served as their first communal space.

"Our family-oriented values are what drives us," said Angela Lee, president of the Douglass Community Center and a descendant of one of the original families. "When we see our elders pass on, we carry on their vision because we know the amount of work they put into building and sustaining this center and community." Angela grew up spending her summers visiting the center with her relatives and grandmother who lived down the street.

Last spring, the Douglass Community Center received a $100,000 capital grant from the Ford Fund for improvements on its 38-acre property. The center is currently focused on providing activities and services that engage and benefit the next generation. On the campus, seniors enjoy luncheons and aerobics, volunteer firefighters teach CPR, children play basketball, and families gather for holiday parties. One day, Angela met a family playing on the center's playground, consisting of three swings and a slide. Inspired by her conversation with the father, Angela is fundraising for playground equipment, and the father now joins the center's meetings and events.

As the Douglass community plans to renovate and grow their infrastructure, Angela emphasized the importance of preserving the center's authentic sense of safety, and the feeling of being at somebody's grandparents' home. If you're a Ford employee interested in supporting the Douglass Community Center, consider donating your time, knowledge, energy or services to their cause. Angela encourages others to get involved, in sharing "See what we see, how our community is, and become a part of it." Learn more about upcoming programs and events at the Douglass Community Center here.