Art Galleries, Museums and Cultural Centers on HBCU Campuses

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American Heritage and Culture opened in September 2016.  SInce that time more than 2.5 million have visited the only museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC dedicated to the journey of African-Americans.  However, many more have yet to visit-because of the distance or because tickets are not easy to come by.  But for those with an interest in learning more about African-American history or who wish to view African-American artwork HBCU campuses offer an opportunity.  

Some interesting facts about HBCU Museums:

  • Founded in 1868, the Museum at Hampton University is the oldest African American museum in the United States and one of the oldest museums in the state of Virginia.
  • Several HBCUs oversee more than one museum or gallery. These include Jackson State, Tuskegee, South Carolina State, Morgan State and Tougaloo.  
  • The African American Museum of Dallas was founded in 1974 as a part of the Special Collections at Bishop College, an HBCU that closed in 1988. The Museum has operated independently since 1979. 
  • Though not directly connected to an HBCU the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, which opened in 1988, is located in Wilberforce, Ohio, directly adjacent to Central State University.  The location was selected as the site of the museum due, in part, to the town being the home of two HBCUs- Central State and Wilberforce.   The administrative offices are housed in what was once the Carnegie Library on Wilberforce's Old Campus.

Here is a sample of the amazingly diverse collections held by Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

(For a more complete listing of HBCU museums & galleries, head on over to The Hundred-Seven's Pinterest page)

I.P. Stanback Museum & the FAB Gallery
at South Carolina State

The IP Stanback Museum's present building was constructed in 1980 and is named for the 1st African-American chairman of the University's Board of Trustees.  The museum is a unique in that it combines an art museum and a planetarium in a single facility.  FAB Gallery is in the university's Visual and Performing Arts Center.  The gallery organizes exhibitions and educational programs displaying the works of contemporary artists and designers, as well as students.  

The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights & African-American Culture at Alabama State University

Opened in 1997 the Alabama State University Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture serves as a clearinghouse for information concerning Montgomery's pivotal role in the civil rights movement. The center hosts programs, displays collections and presents a number of rotating exhibits.  A wide variety of artifacts, cultural documents and memorabilia can be viewed and an interactive exhibit includes digital and photographic displays that commemorate the heroes of Alabama State who had a role in the movement.  

Eddie Robinson Museum at Grambling State University

It makes sense that Grambling would honor a man who  dedicated his entire career to the university and whose efforts made Grambling a household name.  Robinson achieved legendary status by becoming NCAA Division I football's all-time winningest coach with 408 wins.  More than 200 of his players played in the NFL and 4 are in football's Hall of Fame. The museum even includes a gallery of jerseys for those NFL players.

Dr. Rosa J. Young Historical Museum at Concordia College Alabama

Tucked away in a former classroom on the campus of Concordia College  is a one-room testimony to Dr. Rosa J. Young, the school's founder.  The museum includes photos of Young; proclamations and letters and an original copy of her 1930 autobiography, Light in the Dark Belt.  The current museum was dedicated in May of 2017 after it was moved from a smaller building on another part of the college.  

Update: After this feature was published, the Board of Trustees announced that Concordia College Alabama would close at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. There is no word on what will happen to the campus and museum.

Meharry Medical College Dental Museum

The Dental Museum at Meharry was established by Professor Emeritus Dr. Edwin Hines a 1971 graduate.  It was established to chronicle the growth and achievement of the school.  It features important artifacts and relics to keep the story of Meharry "alive and cherished."  Artificacts were contributed from Hines' personal collection as well as from other alumni and students.    

African–American Museum at Jarvis Christian College

Rodney Lamar Atkins, Director of the Olin Library at Jarvis, has been collecting memorabilia for 30 years and the museum features more than 200 pieces from his collection. It includes Negro League baseball materials, autographed baseballs, figurines, rare photos, farming equipment and kitchen utensils.  Atkins is particularly fond of the portion devoted to civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph who organized the March on Washington Movement.  The displays wil be rotated to highlight different material from the collection.

The Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center

Named for alumnus the Honorable Bennie G. Thompson, Congressman for the 2nd District of Mississippi, the center strives to be a place of education, research, and debate on human and civil rights. The art gallery showcases Tougaloo’s extensive permanent private collection of over 1400 pieces, widely considered Mississippi’s most important private collection of American modern art and traditional African sculpture and artifacts. Each wing of the building features images of important Civil Rights events and figures.  Tougaloo also owns the Medgar and Myrlie Evers House which it operates as a museum.

Clara Peterson-Rock Museum at Oakwood University

The Museum exhibits artifacts relating to the history of Oakwood University and Seventh-day Adventists worldwide. It is designed to allow visitors to experience the visual story of Oakwood University in the context of the American and Adventist experience.

Wolff Jazz Institute and Art Gallery at Harris Stowe State University

Initiated with the gift of trusteee Don Wolff and his wife, Heidi, the Wolff Jazz Institute includes jazz journals, vinyl LPs, 38s and 45s, CDs and listening stations.  The cornerstone of the institute is a huge repository of recorded music from the institute’s namesake. There’s also an archive of live recorded interviews, an art gallery, books and magazines, and a Jazz Hall of Fame.  The institute also houses more genres of music including blues, folk big band and pop as well as jazz. 

The Fourth Floor Art Gallery at Prairie View A&M University

Prairie View's Art Gallery is housed on the 4th floor of the John B. Coleman Library.  It feature The Wilhlmina Delco Story- a montage of photographs, articles, documents, and personal memorabilia permanently encased to celebrate the life and legacy of Wilhelmina Ruth Fitzgerald Delco who served in the Texas House of Representatives. The gallery also features a permanent display of the university’s African Art collection– approximately 300 art objects by various cultures from the continent of Africa.  The central corridor changes and exhibits emerging as well as acclaimed artists.

Dalton Gallery at Clinton College

Dalton Gallery showcases "multifaceted, relevant and responsive" artwork of artists. The grand opening in the current building was in January 2016. The gallery features the artwork of local artists particularly those depicting African-American heritage and themes as well as world-renowned contemporary visual artists with relevance to African-American culture.

The Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum and The James E. Lewis Museum of Art and Culture at Morgan State University

Morgan owns and operates two museums-The Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum and The James E. Lewis Museum of Art and Culture.  JELMA is the cultural extension of Morgan State University's Fine Arts academic program. It is the 1st institution in Maryland to highlight the work of African-American artists.  In addition to hosting a varied sampling of touring exhibitions, the permanent collection includes art from around the world.  The Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum is a living museum housed in a 4-story row house and comprised of two period rooms along with six galleries of exhibits.  It highlights the life and legacy of its namesake – Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson, a former Baltimore Chapter NAACP president and civil rights activist. 

Danjuma African Art Center at Lincoln University

Danjuma African Art Center is named for its benefactor, Nigerian leader and businessman Theophilus Y. Danjuma.  This center includes material culture− sculptures, masks, vases, totems, pottery, and jewelry− of African cultures in countries such as Nigeria, Congo (DRC), Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, Ethiopia and Angola. The more than 3000 items in the collection highlight the connection betwen the Lincoln University community  to students of African descent.  It includes art from centuries ago as well as the work of contemporary artists.

Arthur Rose Museum at Claflin University

The Arthur Rose Museum began as the university's first library building in 1898. It now showcases world-class student, faculty and community art exhibitions.  The museum is dedicated in the memory of artist and former art department head, Arthur Rose Sr., known as Dean of Black Art in South Carolina.

African-AmericanArt Collection & The Melissa and Kevin Katz Collection  at Philander Smith College

Within the Donald W. Reynolds Library at Philander Smith is one of the largest library collections of African-American art in the state of Arkansas. Paintings, photographs, sculpture, lithographs and ceramics by artists like Hale Woodruff, Samella Lewis and Lois Mailou Jones are part of the collection.  Also housed in the library is what has been proclaimed "the best collection of traditional African art on display in Little Rock." The Melissa and Kevin Katz Collection includes an assortment of sculptures, masks and ceremonial pieces  most from West Africa. It is named for the two Texas optometrists who donated the art which has been valued at almost $950,000.  

Mosely Gallery at University of Maryland Eastern Shore

The Mosely Gallery is a non-profit art gallery at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore with an educational mission to promote UMES Department of Fine Arts academic programs in Commercial Photography, Graphic Illustration and Sequential Arts, as well as the art work of UMES students and faculty. The gallery provides cultural and educational programming to the campus community and the greater area of the Delmarva Peninsula.  

African Art Gallery at Norfolk State University

The African Art Gallery at Norfolk State University displays artifacts from Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The artifacts on display or pieces that were actually used in rituals and the everyday life of the African people.  Items include a bucket carrier, assorted Kuba knives, a deteriorating headrest and a dogon (door) made for a granary cabinet

Wilbur Steele Hall Art Gallery at Bennett College

Bennett's art gallery is housed in Steele Hall, the oldest building on campus.  It exhibits contemporary black artists and showcases Bennett’s extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, and African artifacts.  The gallery desires for the exhibited artists to engage with the students and public through workshops, lectures, and hands-on demonstrations. Congresswoman and former Bennett professor, Alma Adams, oversaw the renovations and reopening of the gallery.  

To read about some other HBCU museums and galleries, be sure to read the piece written by Jada Wright-Greene   published in the Huffington Post earlier this year.  In addition to Tougaloo and Morgan it highlights 15 other institutions located on the campuses of  Alabama A&M, Bethune-Cookman, Clark Atlanta, Fisk, Florida A&M, Hampton, Howard, Jackson Sate, North Carolina Central, Southern University, Spelman, Texas Southern, Tuskegee, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Winston-Salem State. 

Photo credits: SCSU: AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain, ASU: Alabama News Center, CCA: Luther Church Missouri Synod website, JCC: Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph;  Lincoln: Ed Rahme, Architect website; PSC: Arkansas United Methodists/Amy Forbus; Bennett: Hugh P. Latham/Artist James McMillan website

September, 2017

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