ANNAPOLIS, Md. — More than $36,000 will be spent to upgrade the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial at City Dock in Annapolis.
The project was one of three African American Heritage Preservation Program grants approved this week by the state Board of Public Works.
Work on the monument will include cleaning and polishing the bronze statue of Haley and the 12 plaques that line part of City Dock. It also will include cleaning and preserving the compass rose outside Market House.
The monument features a life-size bronze statue of Haley, the author of "Roots," a novel published in 1976 about slaves coming to America.
The sculpture group depicts Haley reading to three children. Sitting on the children and climbing on Haley is a popular activity for tourists.
"They get just about as hard use as any bronze statues anywhere," said Greg Stiverson, president of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation.
The monument was dedicated in June 2002. It is at the head of Ego Alley, near where the slave ship Lord Legionier arrived in 1767 from Gambia. One of slaves it transported was Kunta Kinte, an ancestor of Haley.
The monuments are a short distance from Spa Creek and the Severn River, and must endure frequent flooding and constant weathering.
Stiverson, former president of the Historic Annapolis Foundation, recalled seeing the statue completely submerged in 2003, when Tropical Storm Isabel flooded the Annapolis waterfront.
The monument underwent a major cleaning following that storm, Stiverson said.
The restoration project will include replacing wiring and lighting along the wall where the 12 bronze plaques are located, and upgrading the webcam watched by viewers around the world.
After this renovation, Stiverson said, maintenance will consist of applying special wax every three years.
The Board of Public Works also approved $34,855 to replace the roof on the old Pomonkey High School, the first African-American public high school in Charles County. The largest of the three African-American heritage grants approved this week — $100,000 — went toward restoring Christ Rock Methodist Episcopal Church outside Cambridge.
The Maryland Commission on African American History & Culture was founded in 1969 as the Commission on Negro History and Culture.
The commission's chairman, Theodore Mack, said it always has been a challenge to raise money for restoring sites of importance in the black community.
Often, he said, these humble sites have had to compete with larger, more impressive structures, such as 18th-century and antebellum mansions, and the homes of the Founding Fathers.
"It was nearly always a small structure that had about completely disappeared, and while we would be talking about a small amount of money, there was always something larger and much more exciting," Mack said.
Work on the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial is expected to start in April and finish before the summer tourist season.
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/