America’s Black Holocaust Museum nears $400,000 fundraising goal

Abele matching gifts up to $100,000

The museum includes exhibits on African people before captivity, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the civil rights movement and local and national civil rights leaders.

America’s Black Holocaust Museum is closing in on a $400,000 fundraising goal as leaders prepare to soon open the museum’s doors.

Museum leaders have raised about $370,000 to date, thanks in part to a $100,000 personal challenge grant from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

On Monday, Abele and museum supporters celebrated the fundraising progress, along with Abele’s proclamation of Feb. 25 as Dr. James Cameron Day in Milwaukee County. The late James Cameron, who survived a lynching in 1930 when he was 16 years old, founded the original America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee in 1988. Cameron died in 2006 when he was 92.

The museum has been closed since 2008, and is slated to reopen this year at 401 W. North Ave. as part of a $17.7 million project led by Maures Development LLC and Jeffers & Co. No official re-opening date has been set yet for the museum.

The museum was expected to open in late 2018, but the project was pushed back. Leaders set a goal of raising $400,000 in early 2019 to support the museum’s educational programming and operations. Once the goal is reached, it will complete the $1.5 million fundraising goal set by the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, Inc. for 2018.

Abele’s grant will match any donations and pledges, up to $100,000, submitted through Feb. 25.

Ralph Hollmon, board chair of the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, Inc., said the community enthusiasm for the project has been “overwhelming.”

“This is one of our most important cultural institutions,” Hollmon said. “We want to make sure it not only comes back but is here for generations and generations to come.”

Reggie Jackson, head griot of the museum, led supporters on a tour of the exhibits, which trace the history of the lives and distinct cultures of Africans before they were taken into captivity, the Middle Passage experience, slavery in America, the Jim Crow era, the past and present civil rights movement, and local and national civil rights leaders.

Abele said the lessons taught through the exhibits are needed in 2019.

“We’re not at a high point in race relations, tolerance and equality in this country, certainly not in our rhetoric,” Abele said.

Abele stressed it’s particularly important for young people to be exposed to the realities of slavery and its legacy in the U.S. in order to make progress.

“Any society that doesn’t study its past is condemned to repeat it,” Abele said. “And we need to do some studying, not just in Milwaukee but as a country, and in particular this part of our history.”

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