If you'd like to give feedback about the changes at AAMLO, you can go directly to the feedback form here.
History of AAMLO
The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is dedicated to the discovery, preservation, interpretation, and sharing of historical and cultural experiences of African Americans in California and the West for present and future generations.
In 1946, Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay and Jesse and Dr. Marcella Ford began collecting the oral histories and artifacts that documented the activities of African Americans in and around Oakland, the Bay Area, and California. On July 2, 1965, this effort officially became the East Bay Negro Historical Society (EBNHS). As their efforts continued, the founders needed to find a larger space for the growing collection. In 1970, the EBNHS moved to a storefront located at 3651 Grove Street.
In 1976, it moved to 4519 Grove, where it operated a museum and library. In 1982, the EBNHS was invited into the Golden Gate Branch of the Oakland Public Library, making it the first Oakland city library with a predominantly African American focused collection. The assistance of Mayor Lionel Wilson, Assemblyman Elihu Harris, and others helped the organization establish a solid foundation in their new home. Following the appointment of Dr. Lawrence Crouchett as its executive director in 1988, the organization changed its name to the Northern California Center for Afro-American History & Life (NCCAAHL).
In 1994, the City of Oakland and the NCCAAHL merged to create the African American Museum & Library at Oakland (AAMLO). This unique public/private partnership entered a historic juncture with the opening of AAMLO in February 2002. Located at 659 14th Street, AAMLO is housed in the former Charles S. Greene library, an historic 1902 Carnegie building.
Future of AAMLO
The Oakland Public Library (OPL) is dedicated to empowering all people to “explore, connect, and grow,” as proclaimed by our mission statement. We are committed to reaching out to communities in Oakland that have been underserved. We are dedicated to being a space for hosting and facilitating conversations around the issues that matter to our city, and to honoring people and their needs first.
AAMLO, a specialized unit of the OPL, will be moving in a similar direction. AAMLO’s unique non-circulating reference library, its permanent museum gallery and space for changing exhibits, as well as its archives with over 160 collections documenting the history of African Americans in Northern California and the Bay Area, all are a rich resource for the community. OPL is very much committed to new opportunities for AAMLO with a focus on engaging Oakland’s African American community in new and more accessible ways.
Visitor-centered. Civic-minded. Inclusive. Diverse. Welcoming. Responsive. Unifying. Participatory.
AAMLO holds a vital space, physically and intellectually, in the Black Arts Movement and Business District, occupying a historic building at 14th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
As such, we have a vision for transforming AAMLO into a vibrant 21st Century museum. We will celebrate the significance of contributions by Black leaders, support the movement to bring diverse people together, inspire and be inspired by the legacies and contemporary manifestations of Black-owned businesses, and celebrate the arts rooted in the Black cultural experience.
We want AAMLO to serve as a true archive and museum for the community, actively engaging community members and organizations.
What does that look like?
AAMLO can and should:
- be deeply connected with the community;
- employ strong museum leadership serving as a change agent;
- maintain an attitude of inclusion;
- help to create a respectful environment for public discourse;
- listen to the needs of the community;
- explore innovative partnerships with schools;
- assess museum practices to ensure representation of all members of the African American community;
- become a thoughtful institution in Oakland and affect change in the community;
- and be willing to ask questions, try new things, and learn along the way.
Hiring a new curator.
We are at the beginning stages of developing a plan for recruitment for a new Chief Curator for AAMLO.
It will be a national recruitment by a professional search firm and we will seek a Curator in African American studies and history that has backgrounds in museum administration and collection management.
Our plan is to involve the community in the search process and we welcome your feedback in how that might look to you.
During the interim, until we have a permanent Chief Curator, we plan to have an Interim Curator who has background and skills in California African American history and studies, and we hope to find someone who has connections with Northern California or Oakland. We'll be sure to keep you posted.
We need your help!
We look forward to working with community members to make these plans a reality. We hope that you will help us re-envision a future for AAMLO that is visitor-centered, civic-minded, inclusive, diverse, welcoming, responsive, unifying, and participatory.
We will continue to solicit community feedback about the future of AAMLO. Please share your vision with us. What is your dream for AAMLO? How do you see AAMLO fitting into the community?
If you’d like to share your ideas, please fill out the feedback form available at www.oaklandlibrary.org/AAMLOFeedback.
Stay tuned for future opportunities for community discussion, feedback solicitation, and ongoing conversation.
We thank you for your engagement in this process!