Reopening of Black Holocaust Museum awaiting approval

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  • The Black Holocaust Museum may be reopened, pending approval by the Department of City Development
  • The museum closed in July because of financial troubles
  • Plans for Milwaukee's Redevelopment Authority to buy and reopen the property were delayed at their Oct. 16 meeting

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee's plan to purchase the Black Holocaust Museum was delayed for further review at their meeting last week, said a department spokeswoman.

America's Black Holocaust Museum, 2233 N. 4th St., closed in July because of a lack of funding. After a fundraising campaign and an appeal to city officials, the museum may open again.

The Redevelopment Authority plans on buying the building because department officials consider it an important part of their effort to redevelop the area, said Andrea Rowe Richards, public relations manager for the Department of City Development.

But in its Oct. 16 meeting, the Redevelopment Authority delayed discussing the proposal to buy the building for $250,000. The proposal was instead referred to the Department of City Development for review, Rowe Richards said. The city also plans on acquiring the adjacent property, the building that used to be Grant's Soul Food Restaurant, 411 W. North Ave.

Even if the building cannot reopen as the museum, Rowe Richards said the department still wants the space to have a positive effect on the Bronzeville Cultural and Entertainment District, a city redevelopment project aimed at revitalizing Milwaukee's African-American community.

"We want to make sure (the property's) use is compatible with Bronzeville," she said. "If (the museum) can't exist in that location, we want that location to still be significant to the Bronzeville district."

Sixth District Alderman Milele Coggs stressed the historical and cultural importance of keeping the museum, located in her district, open.

"The museum shares critical pieces not only of African-American history, but also of American history, that must be preserved," Coggs said. "It is my sincere hope that the philanthropic community, both here and across the nation, will see the value of the museum and offer assistance to keep it going."

She said she would continue to work with those involved to revive the museum.

"I have committed myself to continuing to work with the city, the museum and community to reopen this valuable community asset and hopefully bring it back even better and stronger than it was before," Coggs said.

James Cameron opened the museum in 1988. Cameron survived an attempted lynching in Indiana in 1930, and he committed his life to the fight for civil rights and racial equality. He served eight years as Indiana's State Director of Civil Liberties, participated in the marches on Washington and assisted in the protests to end segregated housing in Milwaukee. He died in 2006.

His museum housed exhibits on the lives of Africans before slavery, lynching in America, and the leaders of the NAACP in Wisconsin, among others. When in operation, the museum hosted an estimated 50,000 visitors each year, according to the Web site.

Museum Chairman of the Board Reggie Jackson said if the museum were reopened, its operating costs would be $125,000 to $175,000.

Jackson said he is committed to restoring the museum and that donations are still being accepted on the museum's Web site.

"Dr. Cameron's mission is our primary concern," Jackson said. "We hope that this will make people in the community aware that we do need assistance."

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