In the video on the right, Jerrianne and Hibbie Hayslett talk about their experience visiting ABHM.
THE ORIGINAL BRICKS-AND-MORTAR MUSEUM
America’s Black Holocaust Museum was founded in 1984 in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, storefront by Dr. James Cameron, the only known survivor of a lynching. In 1988 Cameron acquired a spacious free-standing building, where the he expanded ABHM’s exhibits, and employed staff.
The museum attracted many local, national and international visitors. Many took guided tours led by “griots” (docents) who interpreted the exhibits and facilitated dialog.
Dr. Cameron also spoke daily with most visitors about his survival experience – making for a very special encounter with living history. His passing in 2006 combined with the country’s economic downturn forced the museum to give up its building in 2008.
THE NEW VIRTUAL MUSEUM
On February 25, 2012, ABHM came back to life as a unique, cutting-edge, interactive, virtual museum. This 21st century, cost-effective format makes ABHM available to people around the world who would otherwise have no access to its information and resources. ABHM also installs temporary exhibits in public and university buildings in the greater Milwaukee area.
Scholar-griots from around the world have begun curating exhibits for ABHM. The virtual museum is still in its infancy, but exhibits are added every week.
Future plans include: a gift shop and fine art gallery; lesson plans and other resources for educators; a sophisticated multi-player role-playing game; and a simulated environment.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
• Visit often: New exhibits come online all the time. To be alerted to new exhibits as they are added, click on the RSS button at the foot of any page.
• Contribute: You can also contribute your time, talents, and funds to build the museum.
• Comment: And please, let us know what you think of exhibits by leaving comments at the bottoms of pages.
We hope your experience at ABHM is enlightening and rewarding. Thank you for visiting!
Definitions The word “holocaust” is defined as “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially that caused by fire.”1 A holocaust is usually a series of atrocities organized by one social group against another. In the last hundred years, the world has witnessed many such atrocities: for example, the Armenian Holocaust, the Cambodian Killing Fields, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Genocide in Darfur. Usually, in America, when we say “The Holocaust,” we mean the systematic mass murder of European Jews by the Nazis from 1941 to 1945. Similarities Between the Jewish and the Black Holocausts The four hundred-year history of captured Africans and their descendants has many similarities with the Holocaust experiences of European Jews – and other victims of mass atrocities. These include: Forced marches and migrations, Stolen property, Dehumanization, Slave labor, Mass incarceration, Torture, Medical experimentation, Discrimination, Race riots (pogroms), Lynchings (illegal executions), Mass murder, and Long-lasting psychological effects (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) on survivors and descendants. Dr. James Cameron founded this museum after he visited Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. He saw the many similarities between the experiences of the Jewish people and African Americans. When he named this museum, it was because of those similarities. He also admired how Jewish people value their history and educate themselves and others about it. Dr. Cameron saw how this gave the Jewish people strength and wanted the same for his people. Cameron wanted visitors to understand this: The Black Holocaust began hundreds of years ago, but its effects – and [...]
ABHM educates the public about the ongoing injustices endured by people of African heritage in America, and provides visitors with opportunities to rethink their assumptions about race and racism. Learn how we carry out this mission.
Learn about ABHM’s Four Themes – Remembrance, Resistance, Redemption, and Reconciliation – and how they thread through the museum’s exhibits.
Griots are the oral historians of West Africa, who travel from town to town as living newspapers, carrying in their heads an incredible store of local history and current events. At ABHM we call the curators of our exhibits “griots,” because they tell our history and respond to visitors’ comments and questions in the Comments section at the foot of each new exhibit.
James Cameron was just sixteen in 1930 when he and two other teens were lynched in Marion, Indiana. His friends were killed but, miraculously, James survived. He spent a year in jail awaiting trial for the murder that triggered the lynching. He was sentenced as an accessory before the fact and served four years in the Indiana Reformatory with hardened adult criminals.
Cameron believed God saved him for a purpose. He left prison resolved to do something “worthwhile and God-like.” He spent the rest of his long life working to help us understand this tragic chapter of American history. Dr. Cameron showed us how to cope with our painful legacy through love, justice, and reconciliation.