After a 13-year shutdown, the Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is reopening its doors on February 25, thanks to a $10 million grant. And just in time to honor Black History Month, and the museum’s legacy.
The museum, a historical memoriam, was founded in 1988 by lynching survivor Dr. James Cameron, to “build public awareness of the harmful legacies of slavery and Jim Crow in America and promote racial repair, reconciliation, and healing,” as per the museum’s website. Following the economic recession, the museum closed in 2008 and two years after the founder’s death. Although the physical site was not open for public use, America’s Black Holocaust Museum “came back to life as a unique, cutting-edge, interactive, virtual museum” in 2012 on Cameron’s birthday. His memory will continue to be commemorated as the museum is set reopen on his 108th birthday.
In 2017, ground was broken for the new physical site in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood, but the museum has struggled to remain viable due to a lack of artifacts, exhibits, staff and educational programming, according to Fox 6 News.
The new funding has allowed museum officials to purchase the building across the street on West North Avenue. This space will be used for educational purposes and much-needed parking, according to Dr. Robert Davis, president and CEO of the museum. In addition, this $10 million commitment has also allowed the hiring of new staff and the successful completion of the last three exhibits.
“At a time of hyperpolarization, we are in dire need of safe spaces and opportunities created to bring us together to explore difficult issues, to learn and to celebrate our history,” Davis said. “The reemergence of the museum is critical at this time for Bronzeville, Milwaukee and nationally.”
Davis, who was hired in 2019, remained active in continuing the museum’s mission to serve as a catalyst for creating a space for critical dialogue. Throughout the pandemic, he hosted virtual exhibits as well as five book clubs, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
“Because of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and all of these other individuals who have lost their lives, there has been a considerable amount of attention to understanding what is going on in the United States now as it relates to race,” Davis said. “The mission of the museum will be to actually bring to life the effects of colonialism, slavery and Jim Crow that are still in place in December of 2021.”
The museum’s new physical facility will debut multiple new exhibits in galleries encompassing over 400 years of history.