Charles H. Wright Museum Logo

Overview

 

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. Our mission is to open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture. Our vision is of a world in which the adversity and achievement of African American history inspire everyone toward greater understanding, acceptance and unity!

The Wright Museum houses over 35,000 artifacts and archival materials and is home to the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection, Harriet Tubman Museum Collection, Coleman A. Young Collection and the Sheffield Collection, a repository of documents of the labor movement in Detroit. The museum also features:

And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture, the museum's 22,000 square foot, interactive core exhibit

• The Ford Freedom Rotunda and its 100 feet in diameter by 65 feet high glass dome; this architectural wonder is two feet wider than the State Capitol dome

Ring of Genealogy, a 37-foot terrazzo tile creation by artist Hubert Massey surrounded by bronze nameplates of prominent African Americans in history

• 92 flags displayed alphabetically by country and origin; these nations are places where significant numbers of African descendants reside

• The Louise Lovett Wright Library and Robert L. Hurst Research Center.

• The General Motors Theater, a 317-seat facility for live performances, film screenings, lectures, presentations and more

• A museum store that sells authentic African and African American art, books and merchandise.

History

 

dr_wright_pic
Dr. Charles Wright, an obstetrician and gynecologist, envisioned an institution to preserve Black history after visiting a memorial to Danish World War II heroes in Denmark. As a result of this visit, he was convinced that African Americans needed a similar resource center to document, preserve and educate the public on their history, life and culture.
original_museum_pic In 1965, Dr. Wright, in partnership with 33 racially-integrated members of the community, established Detroit's first International Afro-American Museum. The museum, known by the acronym IAM, opened on West Grand Boulevard with dozens of exhibits showcasing such items as African masks from Nigeria and Ghana and the inventions of Elijah McCoy. A year later, the IAM traveling museum, housed in a converted mobile home, began touring the state and spreading information about the contributions of African Americans. The Museum quickly outgrew its quarters.
second_museum_pic In the fall of 1978, the City of Detroit agreed to lease the Museum a plot of land between John R and Brush Streets to build a facility five times larger than its predecessor. In order to raise funds, Detroit Public School students participated in a "Buy a Brick" campaign, raising $80,000 for the new facility. Following the students' initiative, a group of adults started the Million Dollar Club in which each member pledged at least $1,000. This major fundraiser earned $300,000.

In 1985, the Afro-American Museum and the City of Detroit formed a partnership to build a new facility in the city's University Cultural Center, securing the funding to complete the $3.5 million facility.

The name of the International Afro-American Museum was changed to the Museum of African American History and ground was broken for a new facility on May 21, 1985. Two years later, the doors of the Museum of African American History were reopened to the public at 301 Frederick Douglass. The new 28,000-square-foot structure accommodated a range of offerings. Featuring a series of exhibits, lectures, concerts, cultural celebrations, festivals and programs designed especially for children, it preserved the past and strengthened the future.

Once again the museum outgrew its facility and grander ideas for a new museum took shape. In 1992, Detroit voters authorized the City of Detroit to sell construction bonds to finance a larger building and ground was broken for the third generation of the Museum in August of 1993. In April of 1997, a 125,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility opened, making it the largest African American historical museum in the world.

current-museumOne year later, the museum was renamed the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in honor of its founder. The museum continues to serve its community as a place of exploration and celebration. With generous support from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government sources, The Wright Museum continues to be a cultural icon in the city of Detroit and throughout the world.

 


Read the "Detroit Physician Voices Resentment of A.M.A. Indifference" from the Journal of the National Medical Asociation, an article written by Dr. Charles H. Wright. Click Here to download the 1 page PDF

 

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