On July 2, 1965, Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay, Jesse and Marcella Ford, Madison Harvey, and cartoonist Morrie Turner established the East Bay Negro Historical Society (EBNHS) in Berkeley, California. They founded the organization to house black historical materials that previously had been held in family and individual collections. Until the rapidly growing collection compelled the EBNHS to move to a west Oakland storefront within a few years, the Lasartemays stored the artifacts under their bed in their home.
The EBNHS grew out of the Carter G. Woodson Negro history study groups that proliferated earlier in the twentieth century. Its mission to collect, record, present, and disseminate information about the history and culture of African Americans and people of African descent in the East Bay, California, and the western United States also included teaching and community outreach. In 1966, educator Marcella Ford became the first person to teach African American history in night classes in the East Bay public schools.
During the first two decades of its founding, the EBNHS developed and presented black history exhibits, lectures, and programs in schools and institutions throughout the Bay Area. In the early 1970s, it published the Newsletter, which later changed its name to Chronicle of Black History.
In 1987, the EBNHS became the Northern California Center for Afro-American History and Life (NCCAAHL). Under Executive Director Dr. Lawrence P. Crouchett, the NCCAAHL received a grant from the state of California for the Visions Project, Crouchett, Lonnie G. Bunch, III, and Martha Kendall Winnacker authored the first book about the African American community in the East Bay, Visions toward Tomorrow: The History of the East Bay Afro-American Community, 1852-1977, which was published by the NCCAAHL in 1989. That same year, the NCCAAHL mounted an exhibition, Visions toward Tomorrow: The East Bay Afro-American Community, 1852-1977, at the Oakland Museum of California. This represented the museums first black exhibit developed and curated by a black organization. The Visions Project and the 1990 debut of the From the Archives newsletter, edited by Crouchett, announced a more scholarly direction for the NCCAAHL. Crouchett died in 1993.
In 1994, the NCCAAHL merged with the Oakland Public Library and became the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO). Senior curator Robert L. Haynes served as interim executive director of AAMLO from 1994 to 1995; Hope Hayes served as administrative director from 1995 to 1998; and in July 1998 Mae Bolton became AAMLO's administrative director.
AAMLO, a regional resource center for scholars, the media, and the general public, houses materials by and about African Americans in California and the West. Federal, state, and local funding enabled AAMLO to relocate to expanded facilities in the refurbished Charles Green Library in Oakland's civic center. The site houses a permanent exhibit on California's black history and is the repository for the organization's manuscript, photographic, and material-culture collection. Under the curatorship of Robert L. Haynes, this collection has expanded to include the papers of U.S. Representative Ronald Dellums, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, Oakland Mayor and former state legislator Elihu Harris, and journalist Belva Davis, the first African American female television journalist in California.
East Bay Negro Historical Society