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ABHM: A Unique Experience for Visitors from Near and Far
This museum has a number of special features. ABHM
- Is both a historical and memorial museum.
- Has two ways to share the story of the Black Holocaust:
- On-site galleries for people who can visit us in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
- On-line galleries for people who can access our 3300+ exhibits in cyberspace
- Describes and commemorates the Black Holocaust from pre-captivity in Africa to the present day.
- Was founded by a lynching survivor.
- Was forced to close after 20 years – but re-established through grassroots community efforts.
How ABHM Was Born – and Reborn!
Our Original Brick-and-Mortar Museum – 1988 to 2008
America’s Black Holocaust Museum was founded in 1988 in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin storefront by Dr. James Cameron, the only known survivor of a lynching. In 1992 Cameron acquired a spacious free-standing building, which he renovated and opened on Juneteenth Day 1994 with expanded exhibits and a staff.
The museum attracted many local, national, and international visitors. Many took guided tours led by “griots” (docents) who interpreted the exhibits and promoted dialogue with and among visitors.
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.
Jerrianne and Hibbie Hayslett, who grew up in the South, talk about their first experiences visiting ABHM.
Hibbie would later become one of the museum's long-serving volunteer "griots" (docents).
Our Virtual Museum (On-line) – 2012 to Present
On Dr. Cameron's birthday, February 25, 2012, ABHM came back to life as a unique, cutting-edge, interactive, virtual museum. This 21st century format has made ABHM available to people around the world who would otherwise have no access to its unique educational resources. Each year our 3200+ page online museum serves millions of visitors – students and adults alike – in over 200 countries.
Scholar-griots from around the world curate our online exhibits. Our virtual museum regularly adds new exhibits, including Breaking News: History in the Making, every week.
Future plans for ABHM Online include new history galleries, more special exhibitions, a gift shop, fine art gallery, and resources for educators such as lesson plans and activities.
What You Can Do at ABHM On-line
- Visit often: New exhibits come online all the time. Our Breaking News blog aggregates important current news and culture from Black journalists several times each week.
- Contribute: You can also contribute your time and talents, scholarship, and funds to support both the online and onsite museums.
We hope your experience at ABHM Online is enlightening and rewarding. Thank you for visiting!
ABHM’s New On-site Museum (Physical Galleries) – Re-Opening February 25, 2022!
In 2011 a small group of determined and dedicated community volunteers began working to reestablish ABHM as a physical facility. Their efforts have now born fruit, their dreams realized!
ABHM's new galleries are located on the very footprint of our first building in Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood. On the ground floor of the new Griot Building (named for Dr. Cameron), the new galleries take visitors on a chronological journey through the Black Holocaust from 1619 to the present.
Our Mission and Vision
ABHM builds public awareness of the harmful legacies of slavery and Jim Crow in America and promotes racial repair, reconciliation, and healing. A society that remembers its past in order to shape a better future – a nation undivided by race where every person matters equally.
What is the Black Holocaust?
“Holocaust” comes from a Greek word meaning “burnt offering.” The term was first used to describe the massacres of Armenians in the 1890s. It was used again in the 1940s to describe the mass destruction of European Jewish communities by the Nazis, also known by the Hebrew word “Shoah.” Learn here about the 400+ years of the Black Holocaust in America and its similarities to the Nazi holocaust and other mass atrocities around the world.
Our Four Themes: Remembrance, Resistance, Redemption, Reconciliation
In each Gallery of this virtual museum you will find exhibits reflecting one or more of our Four Themes: Remembrance, Resistance, Redemption, and Reconciliation.
Dr. Cameron: Founder Lynching Survivor
Quiet in demeanor but with a playful spirit, James Cameron was a force of nature and an unrelenting champion for civil rights. He overcame anger and hate as a young man, then dedicated his life to preserving and sharing Black history as an integral part of U.S. history, eradicating racism and fulfilling the ideals and promise of America.
Our History and Impact
Dr. James Cameron, who survived a lynching as a teenager in 1930, founded America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1988. He dedicated his entire life to helping America realize its promise of liberty and justice for all. An early civil rights activist, he fought racial segregation in 1940s Indiana.
After moving to Milwaukee, Cameron published a memoir about his lynching and coming of age during the Jim Crow era. He traveled the country educating audiences at high schools, colleges, and other venues about the Black Holocaust as an integral part of US history, seen through the lens of these personal experiences.
What is a Griot?
“Griot” (pronounced GREE-oh) is the French name given to the oral historians of West Africa. Traditionally griots travel from city to city and village to village as living newspapers, carrying in their heads an incredible store of local history and current events. They pass on their knowledge of history by singing traditional songs, which they must recite accurately, without errors or deviations. Like rappers, they also make up songs as they go to share current events, gossip, political commentary and satire.
“A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story”– Excerpts from Dr. Cameron’s Memoir
LifeWrites Press, a division of the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, released a new, expanded edition of Dr. James Cameron’s memoir on his birthday, February 25, 2016.
In May 2016 the book received a Silver Medal for Best Nonfiction, Great Lakes Region in IPPY’s (the Independent Publishers Association) international competition.
My First Visit to ABHM
An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel announced the opening date of a new museum: America’s Black Holocaust Museum. “What is that about?” I wondered, “And what is a Black Holocaust?” There was something written about lynching. Lynching? I was not sure that word had ever been said aloud by any teacher in all my grade school or high school years. Now this Mr. Cameron says that he actually survived being lynched. I had to meet him and see his museum.
Tell Your Dr. Cameron Story
Many people interacted with Dr. James Cameron during his long life as a civil rights pioneer, family man, worker, author, orator, educator, and museum founder.
Perhaps you were fortunate to be one of those who learned, laughed, broke bread, and/or became inspired, by this man. Here is an opportunity to share your story.
Book Club Discussion Guides
America’s Black Holocaust Museum’s founder, Dr. James Cameron, was an avid reader and inspiring writer and educator. To this day, he is the only known survivor of a lynching to write and publish a memoir about such an experience. In his honor, we created this book club in November of 2020 to bring together a community of all backgrounds to learn about and discuss our collective past, modern manifestations of racism, and how we create racial repair, reconciliation, and healing for a better the future.
Comments Are Welcome
Note: We moderate submissions in order to create a space for meaningful dialogue, a space where museum visitors – adults and youth –– can exchange informed, thoughtful, and relevant comments that add value to our exhibits.
Racial slurs, personal attacks, obscenity, profanity, and SHOUTING do not meet the above standard. Such comments are posted in the exhibit Hateful Speech. Commercial promotions, impersonations, and incoherent comments likewise fail to meet our goals, so will not be posted. Submissions longer than 120 words will be shortened.
See our full Comments Policy here.