|Museum Fact Page|
Dr. Charles Wright, an obstetrician and gynecologist, envisioned an institution to preserve Black history after visiting a memorial to Danish World War II heroes in Denmark. As a result of this visit, he was convinced that Black Americans needed a similar resource center to document, preserve and educate the public on their history, life and culture.
In 1965, he established Detroit's first International Afro-American Museum. The museum, known by the acronym IAM, opened on West Grand Boulevard with dozens of exhibits showcasing such items as African masks from Nigeria and Ghana and the inventions of Elijah McCoy. A year later, the IAM traveling museum, housed in a converted mobile home, began touring the state and spreading information about the contributions of African Americans. The Museum quickly outgrew its quarters.
In the fall of 1978, the City of Detroit agreed to lease the Museum a plot of land between John R and Brush to build a facility five times larger than its predecessor. In order to raise funds, Detroit Public School students participated in a "Buy a Brick" campaign, raising $80,000 for the new facility. Following the students' initiative, a group of adults started the Million Dollar Club in which each member pledged at least $1,000. This major fundraiser earned $300,000.
In 1985, the Afro-American Museum and the City of Detroit formed a partnership to build a new facility in the city's University Cultural Center, securing the funding to complete the $3.5 million facility.
The name of the International Afro-American Museum was changed to the Museum of African American History and ground was broken for the last facility on May 21, 1985. Two years later, the doors of the Museum of African American History were reopened to the public at 301 Frederick Douglass, Detroit, Michigan. The new 28,000 square foot structure was anchored by a permanent exhibit that examined the richness of African civilization from the "Middle Passage" to the Underground Railroad in the escape to freedom. With a series of exhibits, lectures, concerts, cultural celebrations, festivals and programs designed especially for children, it preserved the past and strengthened the future.
In 1992, Detroit voters authorized the City of Detroit to sell construction bonds to finance a larger, more accommodating building. Ground was broken for the third generation of the Museum in August of 1993. This new 120,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility will be the largest African American historical museum in the world.
With the support of Mayor Dennis Archer, the Museum campaigned for an additional $10 million bond to complete the new MAAH. In August 1996, the community continued to show its support for the Museum by passing Proposal B with a 72% voter's approval. More than 30 years later, the reality of Dr. Charles Wright's vision will reach national and international audiences with the opening of the new Museum of African American History on April 12, 1997.
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