America’s Black Holocaust Museum receives $10 million commitment

America's Black Holocaust Museum

Last updated on October 25th, 2022 at 09:00 am

America’s Black Holocaust Museum has received a $10 million commitment from an anonymous donor to fund its reopening next year and sustain its operations moving forward.

The donation, which was made through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and previously reported by BizTimes, will support the museum’s plans to open its new space at 401 W. North Ave. on Feb. 25 and a strategic plan developed by consultant NMBL Strategies that “provides a roadmap to growth and sustainability for generations to come,” the museum said in an announcement.

“At a time of hyperpolarization, we are in dire need of safe spaces and opportunities created to bring us together to explore difficult issues, to learn, and to celebrate our history,” said Dr. Robert Davis, president and chief executive officer of America’s Black Holocaust Museum. “The reemergence of the museum is critical at this time for Bronzeville, Milwaukee and nationally, and I am honored and humbled to continue the work and the legacy of our founder, Dr. James Cameron, as a result of this generous commitment.”

The commitment will be carried out in two phases, an initial $5 million gift that has already been made and a future commitment of another $5 million. The first will support expanding and enhancing the building’s exhibits, along with adding key staff positions and community programming.

The expansion will include ABHM’s recent acquisition of the adjacent former Community Warehouse Inc. building at 324 W. North Ave. for academic programming. State records show ABHM acquired the 36,900-square-foot building for $950,000. The building will provide office space, classrooms, exhibits, a small auditorium and parking.

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 to explore under-told stories of the African American experience and the harmful legacy of slavery and to promote racial repair, reconciliation and healing. Cameron died in 2006 when he was 92.

The museum closed its doors as a result of the Great Recession in 2008 and has provided virtual programming since 2012. The new space was built as part of a larger mixed-use project at the corner of Vel R. Phillips Avenue and North Avenue. At one time, ABHM planned to reopen during the Democratic National Convention, but the COVID-19 pandemic rendered the convention a largely virtual event and the museum put its reopening plans on hold.

Davis said work still needs to be done on the museum’s exhibits, as well as most of its AV.

“This is just a start to a journey that is continuing the legacy of Dr. Cameron,” Davis during the donation announcement Wednesday. “… This is a jumpstart. And one of the things the donor was really, really crystal clear about is that this gift is not going to be the end-all; this significant gift is going to plant the seeds that will be nourished by the community and this organization to grow a tree of life. And that is what this gift is supposed to do.”

The second funding phase will support “long-term goals of sustainability and development of the museum to ensure the mission and vision can be carried out in perpetuity,” the museum said.

“With this new investment, America’s Black Holocaust Museum is poised for growth as an unparalleled destination for knowledge and connection – a jewel in our city that enhances the surrounding neighborhoods and serves as a beacon for racial justice everywhere,” said Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “The generational work of ABHM aligns with the foundation’s vision of a Milwaukee for all, and on behalf of our anonymous donor, we hope this commitment inspires others to support and sustain the museum in its vital mission.”

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