African American Museum Exhibits Black History Awareness Every Day


By Jodi Harris

February has been noted as “Black History Month,” since 1976, but it was officially established by Carter G. Woodson and first celebrated in 1926. The initial recognition was just one week in length to honor Frederick Douglass’ birthday on the 14th and Abraham Lincoln’s on February 12th. It was expanded to a full month during the nation’s bicentennial.

“The relevance, awesomeness, and impact of African American history upon American history is important and undeniable. There is so much depth and variety within the African American story that it should be a part of our lives 365 days a year,” said Krystal Gladden, African American Museum of Iowa, Museum Educator.

Here in Cedar Rapids, we are extremely fortunate to have the African American Museum of Iowa, (AAMI), located at 55 12th Avenue SE. The Museum is a fantastic resource with a plethora of information and history, including many records that cannot be found at any other facility in Iowa. The Museum welcomes visitors throughout the year and encourages them to come in to enjoy their permanent exhibit, “Endless Possibilities,” which reflects Iowa’s African American history from its origins in western Africa to the present. Their temporary exhibit “Mightier Than the Sword,” focuses on the history and evolution of African American literature from the 18th century to the present and is open through July 29, 2017.

“They Said This Day Would Never Come” is a two-case lobby exhibit, which will be on display to correspond with the anniversary of Barack Obama’s two inaugurations and commemorate the end of his presidency. Featuring Obama’s campaign materials and other memorabilia, the exhibit will run through March 31st.

During February, some special events are planned including:

Author Ayana Mathis, who will speak about her novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, February 18th.

Students from the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) will visit on February 25th to expose student activities centered on the STEM education. This will coincide with the release of the movie “Hidden Figures,” to give students a chance to learn the concepts used by some amazing African American scientists, inventors, and innovators such as Archie Alexander and Katherine Johnson.

Throughout the year, the Museum offers many interesting events including:

Juneteenth, which will be held June 16-17, and is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in America. This event also honors the many African Americans who helped build our nation.

Journey to Freedom will be in the fall of 2017 and is a joint program between the African American Museum of Iowa and Wickiup Hill Learning Center. The event features an outdoor simulated Underground Railroad experience at Wickiup Hill. Visitors will have the opportunity to experience the perils and triumphs of the escape from slavery.

History Makers Gala is set for September 7, 2017 and will be held at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center. This is African American Museum of Iowa’s only fundraiser and attracts guests from across the state. This event honors African Americans who have made an impact in their communities. Gala proceeds benefit the Museum’s statewide educational programming.

Consider having your next event at The Aldeen Davis Celebration Hall at AAMI. Capacity is 200 and is available for a variety of events including fundraisers, luncheons, formal dinners, weddings, dances and more. Enjoy a view of the Cedar River Trail, the Cedar River, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial art piece, Trumpet. When the hall is rented, the use of the Museum’s adjacent Harper Terrace is an added bonus. Group tours, adult education, and the Aegon Learning Lab meeting room with a capacity of 35, are also available at AAMI. For more information, go to www.blackiowa.org, or contact AAMI at 319.862.2101.

*Information for this feature provided by Krystal Gladden, AAMI, Museum Educator, LaNisha Cassell, AAMI Deputy Director, and the www.blackiowa.org website.

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