Memories in Stone and Steel: Black Museums and Sites Give New Dimensions to Black History Year

Ebony, February 2003 | Go to article overview

Memories in Stone and Steel: Black Museums and Sites Give New Dimensions to Black History Year


FROM the abolition of slavery to the birth of jazz and from the Negro baseball Leagues to the end of Jim Crow, many milestones and achievements of African-Americans are chronicled, catalogued and celebrated in the increasing number of Black museums. Not only museums but also a growing number of National Park sites, 17 to date, are focusing on the history and culture of African-Americans.

An exception to the trend is the glaring absence of a major Black museum on the Washington Mall on the nation's front lawn in Washington, D.C. This is a historical error a blue-ribbon national committee is trying to correct in a historic proposal to Congress and the White House. Neither the commission nor the local and regional museums are making small plans.

Big is in as African-American heritage center leap into the new millennium with size and style. No longer the one-room exhibits of another millennium, lacking funds, curators and collections, today's African-American museums are major affairs, with major funding, multi-thousand square feet facilities and professional directors and curators.

The nation's oldest, non-profit museum is Chicago's DuSable Museum or African-American History, founded in 1961 with a ten-dollar charter by Dr. Margaret Goss Burroughs.

One of the largest Black History museums is located in Detroit. The late Dr. Charles H. Wright founded the 120,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in 1965. Throughout the country in major cities and secluded parks, there are many museums, park sites and centers for Black culture.

Here are some of the major Black museums and historical sites that are turning Black History Month into Black History Year. (Note: National Park sites are designated with an *).

These institutions are representative of the hundreds of museums, park sites and Black culture centers in cities and states all over America.

ALABAMA

BIRMINGHAM CIVIL RIGHTS INSTITUTE, 520 16th St., N. Birmingham. State-of-the-art facility houses dramatic exhibits chronicling civil rights activities from post-World War I racial segregation to present-day racial progress.

CIVIL RIGHTS MEMORIAL, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, honors civil rights martyrs.

TROY STATE UNIVERSITY MONTGOMERY ROSA PARKS LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, 251 Montgomery St., Montgomery, honors the courage of the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement" and is constructed on the site of the Empire Theatre where Rosa Parks made her historic stand in 1955.

* GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER MUSEUM, TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE, NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, Tuskegee Institute, honors scientist George Washington Carver who revolutionized agricultural development in the South in the early 20th century. The museum contains numerous Carver artifacts.

ARKANSAS

* CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL, Little Rock, site of 1957 desegregation fight, is the only operating high school to be designated a national historic site.

CALIFORNIA

CALIFORNIA AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM, 600 State Drive, Los Angeles, focuses on preserving African-American history.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CENTER FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS HISTORY and LIFE, 5606 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. History center and museum houses artifacts, photographs and research materials from East Bay African-Americans.

OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA, 1000 Oak St. City museum houses a collection or works by African-Americans, 1960s memorabilia and Black Panther exhibits. Hours vary. Admission charged.

COLORADO

BLACK AMERICAN WEST MUSEUM & HERITAGE CENTER, 3091 California St, Denver, preserves the history and culture of African-Americans who helped settle and develop the American West. Includes exhibits on African-American cowboys, including Bill Pickett.

FLORIDA

AFRICAN-AMERICAN RESEARCH LIBRARY AND CULTURAL CENTER, Fort Lauderdale. The $14 million facility, brainchild of Samuel F. …

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