One of Detroit’s oldest independent African American history museums has received some exciting news!
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History was founded in 1965, named for Detroit-based OBGYN Dr. Charles H. Wright. The esteemed doctor was inspired by a World War II memorial to birth a type of “repository for African American history and culture, a space for celebration and remembrance that would inspire generations of visitors,” a statement via the website reads.
Wright’s vision came true. And for more than half a century, the museum has been a beacon of hope and pride for Black Detroiters. It has educated them about our rich history and promoted the exploration and discovery of African American culture. However, since the museum’s current 125,000 square foot location opened inside Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center in 1997, much of the original equipment and systems have stayed the same. Now, the museum has received $1.8 million in federal funding to help with renovations, the Detroit Free Press reports.
“The Charles H. Wright Museum lives in an iconic facility that welcomes thousands of visitors through our doors each year. Support from the city is truly critical in helping us ensure that we can maintain capital improvements while also upgrading our technology on behalf of the institution and community we serve,” said Wright museum president and CEO, Neil A. Barclay.
The funding is a part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which currently has more than 90 projects and initiatives in its Detroit portfolio that are being funded. The $1.8 million will help towards the $5 million renovations. The projects include an update the museum’s General Motors Theater, which will feature new technology, expanded theater capacity, and a newly designed stage.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he is “thrilled to help the museum move forward,” calling it a “gem” in the city. His support comes on the heels of talks to cut city funding for the institution from the $2.6 million allotted for the 2024 fiscal year to a $1.9 million budget in 2025. Councilmember Scott Benson, who is also a member of the museum’s Board of Trustees spearheaded the efforts to find additional funding, leading towards the ARPA funding.
“[The Charles H. Wright Museum is] one of the best museums to represent the breadth and depth of the American Black experience,” Benson said.
Renovations are expected to be complete by spring 2024. And the museum currently has plans for an annual gala honoring costume designer Ruth Carter, a 60th anniversary celebration planned for 2025 and, of course, a continuation of its more than 300 annual public programs and events.
Photo by Creative Commons