A 21-day grass-roots campaign has raised more than $40,000 and stopped the auctioning of the Carter G. Woodson Center, an archives holding black historical records dating back several hundred years.
The center at 1401 14th St. NW and Woodson's birthplace on Ninth Street NW were scheduled to be sold Jan. 21 for nonpayment of $60,000 in real estate taxes and other debts. But a successful fund-raising campaign has forestalled the sale, according to Bonnie J. Gillespie, executive director of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, which runs the center.
The association was formed 70 years ago by the late author, educator and historian Carter G. Woodson, who used the organization as a means of educating the country about the contributions of blacks. Woodson devoted his life to collecting and maintaining records of these contributions, all of which are stored at the center.
Gillespie called the fund-raising campaign, which was supported mostly by individuals, fraternities, sororities, churches and small groups, "a unique and very positive experience. We've paid taxes on the Woodson home and back taxes on payroll. We've forestalled some lawsuits on printing and other bills. It's like a miracle," he said. Although $20,000 is still needed, Gillespie was optimistic that those funds could be raised.
About 90 percent of the money raised has been from the Washington area, Gillespie said. "We're getting almost as much money in the mail as we are from people dropping by. I haven't seen anything like this in my life," he said.
Gillespie credits John Raye & Associates, a public relations firm that has led the fund-raising drive, with the success of the campaign.
The culmination of the drive was a candlelight vigil at the center on Jan. 10 and a cultural program at Shiloh Baptist Church on Jan. 17. About $17,000 in cash and $3,000 in pledges was raised at the church program.
"This is ongoing, by no means the end of the story," said Raye, head of the firm. "We're trying to get 25,000 members of the association this year.
"Our long-range goal is a $5 million trust or endowment," said Raye. "That's what it's going to take to see that this doesn't happen again."