To commemorate the fortieth anniversary (1978–2018) of the African American Museum Association (AAMA), known today as the Association of African American Museums (AAAM), The Public Historian has published a special issue on The State of Black Museums.” We are pleased to make this issue free for you to read online for a limited time. We hope that this issue will serve as a historiography resource on Black museums and leaders as well as an educational resource on salient issues and challenges resonant for today’s Black museums and their audiences and encourage you to share the articles online using the #AAAM2018 conference hashtag (for attendees of the Association of African American Museums conference), the #AASLH18 conference hashtag (for attendees of the American Association for State and Local History conference), and/or the #ASALH2018 hashtag (for attendees of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History conference).

From the “Editor’s Corner” by James F. Brooks:

On October 28, 2016, the editorial team of The Public Historian waited in a crisp windy dawn for the doors of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to open. Members of the TPH editorial board would soon join us for our annual fall meeting, hosted by Deborah Mack and John Welch of NMAAHC. Much of our meeting that day was devoted to planning the issue you find here—fourteen wide-ranging essays and case studies that trace the all-too-slow-yet-inexorable journey from the creation of the first black museum at Hampton Institute in 1868 to the grand opening of NMAAHC in 2016. Mack, associate director for community and constituent services, and Welch, strategic communications coordinator, performed their roles as co-editors with sustained vision and unflagging good-humor. Their goal, to produce a collection in honor of the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Association of African American Museums (AAAM), is fulfilled in these pages. Telling that story, however, required their authors to reach deeper than the AAAM’s four decades. Several of these essays offer vital insights on a long century of advocacy, activism, political turmoil, and transcendence that evolved from community-oriented shopfront or house museums into landmark institutions—fundamental rehearsals for the achievements of the NMAAHC. Thanks to Deborah Mack, John Welch, and fourteen contributing authors, we can appreciate the historical precedence, patience, endurance, and inspiration that made it possible.


A Long Journey to the Washington Mall
James F. Brooks

The State of Black Museums
Deborah L. Mack, John S. Welch

Building Homes for Black History: Museum Founders, Founding Directors, and Pioneers, 1915–95
Fath Davis Ruffins

The Impact of Social Movements on the Development of African American Museums
John E. Fleming

Transitions In Time: Leadership And Governance In African American Museums
Juanita Moore

Growth of Historic Sites: Teaching Public Historians to Advance Preservation Practice
Brent Leggs

Reassessing the Vocational Origins of Hampton University and Celebrating a Singular History of Arts Engagement
John S. Welch

Lifting Every Voice Throughout the Nation: Establishing IMLS’s Grants Program for Museums of African American History and Culture
Nancy E. Weiss

The Emergence of the Field of African American Museums
Jeff Hayward, Christine Larouche

For My People: The Margaret Walker Center
Robert E. Luckett, Jr.

Romare Bearden Graduate Museum Fellowship Program—Outreach to Inreach—A Generation of Cultivating Tomorrow’s Leaders
Renee Brummell Franklin

A City Embraces Its Past, Looks to the FutureA Perspective on the Evolution of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Priscilla Hancock Cooper

Lifting the Veil: Digitizing Black Archives at Tuskegee University
Dana R. Chandler

McLeod Plantation Historic Site: Sowing Truth and Change
Shawn Halifax

Afro-Latinidad in the Smithsonian’s African American Museum Spaces
Ariana A. Curtis

Right from the Start: The Digitization Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
Laura Coyle

Read the full issue. To continue to enjoy TPH‘s content, please subscribe and/or ask your librarian to subscribe. Members of the American Association for State and Local History can receive a discount on individual subscriptions by entering discount code “AASLH” on our shopcart.