By Jessica Swink
The recent opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. has been lauded by visitors who marvel in the beauty of a repository of more than 30,000 cultural artifacts.
The 350,000-square foot construction was completed 13 years after it was authorized by President George W. Bush.
The museum has many exhibitions, including relics related to slavery and freedom, sports, cultural expression of African Americans, the African American military experience, everyday beauty, and visual art.
It’s the first large-scale venue in America for citizens to witness the many facets of African Americans’ past, see where we stand currently, and what things hold for us in the future.
Here at home, the people of Tyler and East Texas gathered to view the ceremonious grand opening during a live streaming of the event at The University of Texas at Tyler on Sept. 24.
Organizers also recognized local history in a display, including Butler College, and Tyler natives Willie Neal ”Country Boy” Johnson and Gospel Keynotes, who were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
The event was hosted by the African American History and Culture Museum of East Texas and Empowerment Community Development Corp. The organizations want to see something similar to the national museum right here in East Texas.
“Tyler and East Texas has so much history that needs to be uncovered for our youth to know about,” said Toyia Jordan, publicist for the museum.
She said a temporary location for the museum is at 1503 W. 29th St. in Tyler.
“Also, you can view the history boards in the library at UT Tyler,” Jordan said “We are in the process of acquiring a permanent building. We are looking for sponsors to help with this project.”
Groups including the African American History and Culture Museum of East Texas are asking for donations for a future museum location. However, limited funds is holding the venture back.
“Funding plays a big role in it and people willing to donate historical items to the museum and us coming together as a people to make this something the next generation can be proud of and pass along to their offspring,” Jordan said.
The permanent location of a museum would be in North Tyler, but there are also places to go around town in the meantime to learn about African American history.
For example, Texas College, founded in 1894, is Tyler’s only historically black college. Bethlehem First Baptist Church was the first church built with bricks in 1891 on West Front Street.
There are also little-known tidbits of information that could be uncovered with a local museum, Jordan said.
Arthur “Dooley” Wilson appeared in the movie Casablanca, piano player who sang “As Time Goes By”, was born in Tyler.
Robert Taylor, gold and silver medalist in the 1972 Olympics, graduated from Emmett J. Scott High School in 1968.
Jordan says they hope to garner support by participating and attending as many local events in Tyler and East Texas areas, or via website, email, social media, and flyers.