Photo credit: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune
The Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery has officially opened its doors in north Minneapolis. Its exhibits feature well preserved documents, wardrobe, and informational panels highlighting the contributions of African Americans to the state.
Co-founded by civil rights attorney, Tina Burnside and writer/educator Coventry Cowens, the museum stands four stories tall, grants free admission, and runs solely on volunteer support. The museum is the first of its kind in Minnesota after a number of failed attempts that spans a period of approximately 30 years to get the needed support behind the project.
“Minnesota is one of the few states that does not have a museum dedicated to the African American people in the state,” Burnside said.
Photo credit: Jim Walsh
Both Burnside and Cowens became randomly acquainted after attending an annual event celebrating African American history at a local church. The event showcased donated personal artifacts that helped to chronicle the experiences of African Americans in their city and state. While Cowens had already begun conceptualizing the idea for the museum and speaking with local elected officials and community members about her vision, she also desired partnership on the project.
She shared, “I was getting positives. At that point I needed someone else I could work with to go forward — I didn’t think it should be a one-person vision or dream.”
When she brought the idea to Burnside at the end of October 2017, she happily agreed to partner with Cowens to turn the museum into a sustainable reality. The museum has been completely funded by private donations both large and small. Additional fundraising efforts are in the works as they work to secure their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status as a not-for-profit organization. A member of the new attraction’s advisory board, Verlene Matey-Keke, has been very vocal around why she believes it has taken so many attempts for this project to successfully get off the ground.
Photo credit: Jim Walsh
“There’s been a suppression of African American history and I feel that as a result we get passed over for so many things,” Matey-Keke said. She went on to say “if you don’t have a history, you don’t exist, so I think it is important that we preserve our history. I believe it’s our salvation.”
Visit maahmg.org to learn more about visiting and/or donating to Minnesota’s newest ode to Black excellence.