Black history museum in Jackson Ward aims to ‘preserve stories that inspire’

RICHMOND, Va. -- Black History Month ends in two days, but the celebration of black history doesn't have to. The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia is keeping the conversation going year-round.

Whether it’s unmasking blackface to a packed crowd or serving as a well of knowledge for area students learning about Richmond’s past, the museum, located in Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward, is at the forefront.

New executive director Adele Johnson says their mission is simple.

“To preserve stories that inspire,” said Johnson. “We tell the untold stories, the undersold stories, the forgotten stories about African Americans who have made great contributions to our country and our nation.”

Adele Johnson

One such story she believes is undertold is about Richmond native Arthur Ashe.

“Everybody knows about Arthur Ashe and we are so glad that the Boulevard has been named after him but what some people don’t know about Arthur Ashe is that he was also an author. He authored 25 books. He was also a civil rights activist,” Johnson explained.

Students participating in a recent black facts event had the benefit of competing with the museum as their backdrop.

“The kids will have an awareness to some of the achievements and contributions that blacks have made in this country. I think they will walk away with a sense of pride and thirst for knowledge and want to learn more,” said Samantha Thompson.

Organizers from Henrico County’s chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority say the venue couldn’t have been more appropriate.

“Richmond has a robust history and we want the community to be aware of that. Why not have it here and celebrate our history. And again, it is American history, not just black history.”

The Black History Museum and Cultural Center is a nonprofit organization that operates solely on funds from memberships, donations, and grants.

Johnson says keeping the doors open to everyone in the community is critical for the nonprofit because it’s a place that can foster a greater sense of understanding, appreciation for history and education, not just during Black History Month, but all year long.

“Our permanent exhibition on the first floor covers emancipation, Jim Crow, reconstruction, massive resistance, and civil rights. It’s all contemporary so we are touch screen technology and it’s an opportunity to learn a lot,” said Johnson.

The Black History Museum and Cultural Center is located at 122 Leigh Street in Jackson Ward.

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