African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Branch Address659 14th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
About the African American Museum & Library at Oakland
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.
AAMLO's archival collection is a unique resource on the history of African Americans in Northern California and the Bay Area. The over 160 collections in the archives contain the diaries of prominent families, pioneers, churches, social and political organizations. Freedom's Journal, the Liberator, California Voice, Sun Reporter, Muhammed Speakers, and the Black Panther newspapers are available on microfilm.
Using AAMLO's oral history collection, researchers can listen to interviews with local civil rights activists, educators, writers, and musicians. AAMLO is home to the Eternal Voices video library containing more than 80 years of African American East Bay history and Susheel Bibb's Meet Mary Pleasant DVD (scholarly interviews, key issues and documents).
The microfilm collection includes primary research information on African American enslavement, military service, California census records 1910-1930, Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, W.E.B. Dubois, Benjamin Banneker, Mary Church Terrell, Paul Robeson and others. The archives department is open from 12-4. To make an appointment call (510) 637-0198.
AAMLO has a unique non-circulating reference library, a jewel for researchers, students, and anyone interested in African American history. Its collection consists of approximately 12,000 volumes by or about African Americans. Among its many subjects are books on religion, the military, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, the Black Panther Party, Africa in relationship to the African-American experience, genealogy, and California history.
A collection of children's books highlights award-winning titles. Patrons can access on-line databases or thumb through James de T. Abajian's Blacks in Selected Newspapers, Censuses and Other Sources.
One recent acquisition is the new eight-volume set African American National Biography, containing over 4,000 entries written by distinguished scholars and edited by Henry Louis Gates. The reference library offers access to local and out of state newspapers, scholarly journals, and six computers with word processing and Internet access.
The library also owns about 400 videos and DVDs which can be viewed on-site. Library staff are available to assist with research questions, or browsing and enjoyment of the collection.
The second floor museum regularly hosts traveling and original exhibitions that highlight the art, history and culture of African Americans.
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, the organization 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 other 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.
A special thank you to Jeff Norman for providing valuable information on the history of the East Bay Negro Historical Society.
Currently on Exhibit
As part of our celebration of African American History Month, AAMLO is presenting an exhibit of images by nationally celebrated photographer Joe Schwartz. Entitled "A Thought, A Memory, An Image," the show will run February 7-28, 2015.
Schwartz (1913-2013) is known for his humanistic photographs that capture interracial harmony in mixed neighborhoods throughout the USA, from the 1930s to the 1980s. A large selection was included in his highly praised monograph, Folk Photography: Poems I've Never Written (2000). Many of his images will appear in the inaugural exhibit in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian Institution scheduled to open this year.
Image: "Two's A Team," Joe Schwartz. 1940's.