National African American Archives Museum
The National African American Archives Museum, is a history and archive museum. Once known as the Davis Avenue Branch of the Mobile Public Library, the museum houses artifacts and records related to the experience of African Americans throughout their history in the United States. Its stated mission is to teach Americans the importance of African American history and the value of their heritage.
The museum is dedicated to the collection and preservation of African-American history and to recognizing those who significantly contributed to their progress in the U.S. It is a living monument to those who survived the ordeal of oppression and discrimination for decades and centuries.
Contributions by African-Americans to American culture in medicine, art, literature, sports, technology, engineering, politics, space exploration, and more are on display among the many pieces of furniture, records, documents, photographs, biographies, portraits, African carvings, and other memorabilia.
Designed by renowned architect George Bigelow Rogers and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the library was the only library for black Americans from 1932 until the mid-1930s, when it was known by its previous Davis Avenue moniker. For those three decades, it stood to black Americans as a symbol of racial segregation. Because local black Americans were not allowed to receive a complete education as did their white counterparts, getting their schooling at separate facilities, it was up to the local African American community to raise money to collect new and used books for the library.
Exhibits included in the museum are “Slavery Artifacts” and “History of the Colored Carnival”. The “Slavery Artifacts” features chilling reminders of slavery days and what slaves endured. Authentic leg irons, slave collars, shackles, slave bracelets, and slave badges serve to recall the unbearable conditions before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.
The “History of the Colored Carnival” details the contributions of African-Americans to the grand history of Mardi Gras and Carnival. Showcased are artifacts, costumes, and memorabilia from the efforts of the Colored Carnival Association, now known as Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association.
Of course, not only are the national contributions of African-Americans to America’s history and heritage on display, but there are also local notes, as well. Recognized are those black Americans who helped build Mobile and the Gulf Coast area and sustain its growth, as well as documentation of the voyage of Clotilde, the last known known illegal slave ship. The ship docked in Mobile in 1860, and after emancipation and the Civil War, the establishment of Africatown followed thereafter and it became an integral part of the Mobile African-American community.
Also kept in the museum are priceless souvenirs and artifacts from two of Mobile’s most renowned citizens, Major League Baseball legend Hank Aaron and former U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.
The National African-American Archives and Museum is located on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue in Mobile and is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 4:00, Saturday from 10:00 to 2:00, and Sunday by appointment only. Admission to the museum is free.
Visit the museum website at http://nationalafricanamericanarchives.org for information and news.