The Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center,
which has been in the works for a handful of years, had its grand opening in Minneapolis’s Stevens Square neighborhood on June 2.
The museum, which is housed in the historic Coe Mansion, is about “celebrating and presenting African American history for all populations,” its website states.
Roxanne Givens, one of the museum's founders, credits the local community for coming up with the idea. Many people "felt not having a record of the many contributions African Americans made to Minnesota history and beyond, was a major impediment to community engagement, self-esteem and achievement,” the website states.
The concept was there, and a place was needed to “fulfill our mission of a sustainable History and Cultural museum of Local, National and International importance.”
In answer to that, one day Givens and another founder, Harry Davis, wound up near the 1880s Queen Anne-style mansion by chance. It struck them both as the perfect venue for the museum they'd been talking about, according to its website.
To make it a reality, Givens spearheaded a $6 million capital campaign for building renovations. This included improvements that would accommodate exhibits in the space, while also allowing for accessibility. At the same time, the building's historic designation meant that its defining characteristics had to be left intact, the website explains.
Currently, exhibits in the space cover black baseball, the state's African-American pioneers, and African folktales.
The children’s space, which takes up an entire floor, includes an interactive learning and play space, reading lounge, library, high-tech touch-screen exhibits, and artifacts.
Yet to come is an adjoining cultural and educational center that will have state-of-the-art technology, learning labs, a genealogy center, community gallery, oral history center and more, it states.
City Council member Robert Lilligren, who represents Ward 6, which includes the museum, says he's been supportive of the project since the get-go. Further, the Stevens Square community has "welcomed it with open arms as a cultural asset," he says. "They think it's a very positive addition to the neighborhood."
On a broader level, it enhances "a whole string of cultural assets along Third Avenue," which also includes several other museums.
Also, from a historical perspective, "The center swath of South Minneapolis was the first part of the city to integrate racially," so it's appropriate that the museum go there, he says.
Source: Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center; Robert Lilligren, Minneapolis City Council
Writer: Anna Pratt