African-American History Museums

COVID-19 museum closures will have a significant economic impact on cultural locations in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific that have insufficient resources to address public health concerns or to manage budgetary shortfalls or to produce digital displays, according to UNESCO in June 2020. Nearly a third of American museum directors surveyed by the American Alliance of Museums expressed concern that their institutions face “serious risk” of closing by the fall of 2015.

 It’s a good time to recognize the crucial role of Black museums as keepers of cultural relics and centers of knowledge production in a general climate of uncertainty. Black museums in the United States, so-called during the 1960s “Black Museum Movement,” are gathering places where Black intellectual activity can be exposed. Museums dedicated to the study of black culture are just one of many places where this subject is widely studied. Examples include the exclusion of black intellectuals from academic life, enslaved women who used their voices to express who they were and current discussions about diversity and inclusion among faculty of color in higher education. 

Museums dedicated to the study of African-American history and culture are known as “Black museums,” and they cater to a particular demographic of museum goers. Black museums provide a space for the general public to interact with the intellectual output of people of color outside of the context of traditional academic institutions. The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Centre (Wilberforce, OH) and the DuSable Museum of African American History (Chicago, IL) as well as the National Museum of African American History and Culture (Wilberforce, OH) (Washington, DC).

Each museum director’s personality and intellectual development were impacted by Black intellectual histories, which legitimized the establishment of new African American history museums. In the wake of the anticolonial and black radical political movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Black museum directors rejected the dominant narratives of Black exclusion in order to comprehend the Black museum as an organizational home for Black intellectual histories, Black political mobilization, and revolutionary political imagining.

African American history museums typically cited longstanding arguments about the extent of Black history, the significance of African American existence and held out hope for African Americans in American society as a rationale for their establishment.

The museum’s first directors drew in donors and enlisted the help of the local community by building narratives about the history and culture of the African diaspora. A recurrent and crucial concern in the process of interpretation was how African history & art relate to contemporary African American life.

African-American History Museum

The DuSable Museum of African-American History

The DuSable Museum of African American History was founded in 1961 by Charles and Margaret Burroughs as a private collection. Professor Margaret Burroughs was an African American educator, visual artist, poet and the first director of the DuSable Museum of African American Art. A pioneer in African American museology, she helped build and preserve DuSable, the nation’s second-oldest museum dedicated to the history of the African American people.

Art and history should educate racial self-appreciation,’ asserted Burroughs. In Chicago’s Bronzeville neighbourhood, the first visitors to the private art collection of Burroughs were her African-American neighbours. In the late 1970s, the Ebony Museum moved to Centennial Park and was renamed Jean Baptiste Point Dusable in honour of the first African American to settle in what is now Chicago. When Burroughs was granted state and municipal financing in the late 1970s by Kwanzaa’s global popularity, more varied clients began to seek out African and African American history and attend black museums.

Throughout the book, Burroughs emphasized that “Negro History” will include “African history and the actual history of black people in America…the most vital studies a Negro can do.” For example, Burroughs’ use of Yoruba religious and cultural motifs in her creative works foreshadows the museum’s “Negro History” exhibit, according to Zorach.

African-American History Museum: Burroughs’ use of the term “Negro History” harkens back to the tradition of historians like Theodore Holly, William Wells Brown, and Martin Delany in the 19th century, as well as historians like Carter G. Woodson, John Wesley, and L.D. Reddick in the 20th century, of including African history in a broader view of African American contributions to American society. Pan-Africanism, Afrocentricity, Black internationalism, and African diasporic history are defined by this difference in focus on an America-centric or international perspective on African American history.

The National Museum Of African American History And Culture

Another important African-American history museum is the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. “Black Titan” museum directors who created the first black museums were documented by Fath Davis Ruffins in a 2018 edition of the National Council on Public History. The names Dr. Margaret Burroughs and Dr. John Fleming come to mind when thinking of members of this cohort.

National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Centre (NAAMC) was founded in 1988 by Fleming as the first national museum dedicated to the history and culture of African Americans. For Fleming, the study of black intellectual history was central to his academic interests, musicological training, and role as an organization leader.

Fleming met Marion Barry while serving in the Peace Corps in Malawi in the 1970s, and the two worked together before he came to Wilberforce. In 1974, he graduated from Howard University with a PhD in American history . Forefathers include Dr. Rayford Logan; Dr. Charles Wesley; Dr. Lorenzo Green; and Dr. John Hope Franklin of Howard University.

He served as president of the Association of African American Museums in the 1990s (today, Association of African American Museums). HBCU connections and Fleming’s academic credentials prepared him for the unique challenges of museum leadership in Wilberforce, OH. “

There have been calls for a national African American cultural site since as early as 1915. National Museum of African American History and Culture was authorized by Public Law 96-430, but federal funding was never provided. As a result, Fleming was unable to properly train museum workers, acquire travelling displays, or fund collections expeditions, which made it extremely difficult for him to collect artefacts and plan exhibitions.

The fact that many people thought Wilberforce, Ohio to be an inconvenient, distant, and obscure location for a national memorial honoring African Americans only adds insult to injury. Fleming was able to keep the museum open without a government appropriations budget thanks to the sponsorship of Wilberforce University and the Ohio History Connection.

The National Museum of the American Indians’ lack of public financial support allowed curators greater latitude to diverge from America-centric interpretations of ethnic histories that sparked a controversial congressional debate.

An African American Studies PhD program me was created at Temple University in 1988, the same year the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Centre commenced construction. As a result, Fleming, like Burroughs, was influenced by the rise in museum visitors’ interest in African history.

Additionally, Afrocentricity is popular because of Wilberforce University’s involvement in funding and logistics as well as its long history of Pan-Africanism at Wilberforce and Central State. Delany’s work and Dubois’s expansion of museum interpretation options for African Americans went beyond civic exceptionalism.

African-American History Museum

African American History And Culture At The Smithsonian Institution

African-American History Museum: A fresh round of African American history disputes began in 2016 when the Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture opened its doors. After a century of unfulfilled demands, the establishment of an African American history museum on the National Mall finally met those needs.

A Fool’s Errand, an autobiography written by Smithsonian African American History & Culture Museum director-elect Dr. Lonnie Bunch, reveals the financial sources of the museum’s capital campaign, which saw 40% of donations from corporations and 75% of the $1 million in donations coming from African Americans.

The museum relies heavily on private contributions for 70% of its collection and has various connections with other museums across the country. Bunch, despite public support for the capital project and building of the museum, preferred that architectural characteristics be unobtrusive yet memorable components that enhance the museum’s usefulness.

Smithsonian museum architecture integrated the reoccurring dichotomy between Black internationalism and American civic exceptionalism. Using African American history and culture as a prism, Bunch says, “[This institution] must better comprehend what it means to be an American.” However, the museum’s main external façade, designed by architect David Adjaye, contains a crown-shaped Olowe that resembles the Yoruba crown-shaped Olowe of Ise.

Forerunner of the museum’s general historical interpretation, Franklin is honored at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. In its ninth printing, Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom, published in 1947, is still a widely used textbook on African American history. African American history is presented as a linear and progressive narrative of African American civic inclusion into the American body politic in this ninth edition, which was published in 2010.

African-American History Museum: African history is seen as a point of origin for an African American history that takes place solely within the borders of the United States in From Slavery to Freedom and the museum’s comprehensive curatorial approach. As Burroughs and Fleming note, The work left us wondering what the significance of African could be in an African American museum.

Each younger generation of African American museum professionals reframes Bunch’s question and reinterprets it for the general public in museum exhibitions dedicated to African American history. In educational institutions that are open to everybody and sometimes free of charge, Black museums are spaces to discuss the significance of Black histories, identity, and destinies.

Curatorial inventiveness is curtailed by the need to acquire fresh and increased donor funding for black museums. Because of the insecurity that comes with being a Black person in the United States with COVID-19, Black ideology is an ongoing legacy of our significant presence.