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Return of Black Holocaust Museum underway

Milwaukee museum will have a new look and new location

It took more than a century for the National Museum of African American History and Culture to open its doors, but Milwaukee residents won’t have to wait nearly as long for the return of its own museum dedicated to the plight of blacks in America.

Last week, the Milwaukee Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee approved a development plan that would see the return of the city’s Black Holocaust Museum, a staple of the area since the 1980s. The museum will be located on the ground floor of the planned The Griot apartments at 4th Street and North Avenue.

Founded in 1988 by James Cameron, America’s Black Holocaust Museum explored the history of African-Americans from chattel slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, all the way to the nomination of the first black major party presidential candidate. The space included artifacts such as a Ku Klux Klan robe and the ruins of the Henrietta Marie slave ship, which carried African slaves to the West Indies in the 17th century.

Cameron, who died in 2006 and was the only known survivor of a lynching attempt at 16 years old, created the museum after a visit with his wife to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem in 1979. The Black Holocaust Museum was located on the heavily African-American north side of Milwaukee, where it stood for 20 years until financial problems closed the doors in 2008, just weeks after Barack Obama secured the Democratic presidential nomination.

In 2012, the museum launched a website that acts as an interactive space that includes “photographs and videos” and “educational games and comment sections.”

The museum is part of a $16.6 million redevelopment project that aims to create commercial space and more than 70 affordable and market-value apartments.

If approved by the city’s Common Council, the project would be completed in April 2018.

Martenzie Johnson is a senior writer for Andscape. His favorite cinematic moment is when Django said, "Y'all want to see somethin?"