CLEVELAND — Black history month is a time to celebrate African Americans who’ve shaped and changed our county. And a museum in Cleveland highlights the important contributions they’ve made in our community, but it’s struggling to keep its doors open.
“The museum is important because we can tell our own story. We can tell our real history,” said Francis Caldwell, executive director, African American Museum of Cleveland. “When children and adults, when they know their real history and they really know who they are, then it changes their paradigm. It changes the way they see themselves. They see other people, how they view the world and it uplifts them. You know, it kind of it’s a spiritual uplifting.”
First founded in 1953, it’s now the oldest independent African American museum in the country. And it plays an important role.
“The reeducation to correct the miseducation of the history of African people and African American people and our contributions to the world,” said John Boyd, board of trustees, African American Museum of Cleveland.
The artifacts inside are meant to promote understanding, something many black visitors long for.
“We are all citizens first. And we might have come on different boats, but we are all in the same boat now, no matter what color you are,” said Ted Guerry, another member of the board.
The museum has moved and grown through the years - all the while continuing its mission.
“I started realizing that there were so many artifacts here that you can really spend days here,” said Duvall Brown, board of trustees, African American Museum of Cleveland.
But finding money and volunteers to keep the museum open hasn’t been easy. And board members believe if the right investments are put in, it could help tell Cleveland’s black history.
“When you look at the funding that goes around Cleveland, we’re under-funded,” Brown said. “We’re under appreciated, even by our own people.”
And now they’re hoping more people get involved.
“We need the help and people need to come in, get involved and take responsibility, because this is your museum, not just my museum,” Boyd said.
The museum is inside a century-old Carnegie Library Building on Crawford road.
“We understand that it’s really important to future generations that they know who they are,” Caldwell said.
And trustees are making plans to expand.
“We have a tent in the back where we want to look into an agricultural garden, kids learning center, you know, maybe even having, you know, an African restaurant inside the museum itself,” Brown said.
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