By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
In 1988, Dr. James Cameron opened a museum called America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM), right here in Milwaukee, and it remained open until 2008. The museum focused on African and African-American culture and history. Over a decade has passed since the museum closed, but now, effort is being made to re-open the museum on the corner of North Ave. and Vel R. Phillips Ave. at 401 W. North Ave.
Many prominent figures and organizations in Milwaukee have been linked to ABHM’s grand re-opening. Milwaukee County’s County Executive, Chris Abele, is a well-known philanthropist. Recently, he announced that he was giving a $100,000 grant to support the new ABHM. The original fundraising goal was $1.5 million, with $400,000 remaining.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to support this amazing and important museum,” Abele said.
Abele said that he hopes this challenge grant inspires people to donate and support the museum. He added, that beyond a monetary contribution, Milwaukee county residents should do more to make Milwaukee a community that is more just, equitable and compassionate.
According to the press release, his grant will “match dollar-for-dollar all donations and pledges made by February 25, 2019.” The date signifies Cameron’s 105th birthday. He passed away in 2009 when he was 92-years-old. Donors are asked to make a pledge or a donation in honor of his birthday and his legacy.
When the museum was first established it focused on several areas within African history. According to the press release, it’s exhibitions displayed African people before captivity, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, auction blocks, past and present civil rights movements, and local and national civil rights leaders. The plan is to display and focus on those areas in the new museum as well.
“I truly believe that clarity and openness about this chapter of our nation’s history is more important now than it ever has been,” Abele said.
ABHM being re-opened is made possible through the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation (DJCLF). The group was founded in 2012 by friends and supporters of Cameron. The purpose of DJCLF was to continue Cameron’s mission: “to build public awareness of the harmful legacies of slavery in America and promote racial repair, reconciliation, and healing.”
Cameron dedicated his to life to the civil rights movement. He was a strong advocate for a just and peaceful society, which fueled his desire to open ABHM. When ABHM originally opened, it became a cultural institution in Milwaukee. It welcomed people from all over the county, state, nation and world to enter through its doors. Cameron wanted the museum to promote “racial repair, reconciliation and healing,” which is what DJCLF based its mission statement on.
Born in 1914, Cameron lived through the civil rights movement. When he was 16-years-old and living in Marion, IN, a group of men attempted to lynch him. It was 1930. Although incredibly brutal, Cameron survived.
Cameron faced many injustices throughout his life, but he used his experiences to educate the world and make it a better place. This was clearly seen through the ABHM.
Although the museum isn’t re-opening in the same location during its previous run, DJCLF ensured that this location maintains its historical significance.
According to the museum’s website, “This new space will serve as a place where people from our city and visitors from around the world can experience and discuss African-American history as an integral part of American history.”