More than 100 people turned out for its grand opening in a historic home at the corner of Pontiac Tr. and John A. Woods Dr.–the only street in Ann Arbor named for an African American.
The event was the culmination of work that’s been underway since 1993. President and CEO Joyce Hunter says the project began with a talk that year by Margaret T. Burroughs, founder of Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History. Burroughs challenged county residents to start a museum of their own, and Hunter and seventeen other local educators, professionals, and community leaders responded.
For generations, African Americans in Washtenaw County had shared their history by word of mouth, through church programs, and at family reunions. The founders immediately began collecting artifacts and interviewing older residents to capture those stories. But until now, “we were a museum without walls,” says board chair Debby Mitchell Covington.
“Knowing your history is critical for your overall well-being,” says Covington. “Especially in this time and culture where there is a movement to erase Black History.”
In addition to the oral history project–the latest interviews were posted online at aachm.org in November–the museum without walls organized art exhibits, a film series in partnership with the Michigan Theater, and tours of Underground Railroad sites.
Now it finally has walls, too: a home that the Mosaic Foundation rescued from demolition downtown and is renting to the museum. The airy interior is decorated with quilts, a church pew, photos, and artwork.
AAHCM@1528, an exhibit on themes of community identity and legacy by six artists with local roots, runs through December 18.