Celebrating Black History Month: African American Museum in Philadelphia Brings Diverse Communities Together Through Art, Culture and History

Celebrating Black History Month: African American Museum in Philadelphia Brings Diverse Communities Together Through Art, Culture and History
Topics Community SpotlightDiversity, Equity and InclusionWSFS Culture

Since its founding in 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) has interpreted and presented the achievements and aspirations of African Americans from pre-colonial times to the current day.

“AAMP was the first museum established by a municipality to explore African American culture and heritage,” said James Claiborne, Public Programming Manager at AAMP. “It’s an important hub and a celebration of Black culture, music, food and more. It’s very anchored in the now, but rooted in the history, and it is amazing to have a place dedicated to Black culture steps away from Independence Hall.”

The Museum offers a variety of programming throughout the year meant to inspire, educate, promote dialogue and bring together the Community. When the pandemic hit, AAMP was forced to close its physical space for the safety of the public, but that didn’t stop the Museum from providing its programs and exhibits.

“The support we’ve received from WSFS and other organizations is helping to sustain the great programming and ensure our mission is carried out,” said Michele Walls, VP of External Relations & Development at AAMP. “Especially in this past year, the support from the Community has allowed us to explore new avenues and opportunities. It’s been great to see programming enhanced by the digital aspect and allow people to connect who might not have engaged with the Museum previously due to a number of barriers.”

“We have some very exciting programs available right now and even more to come this Spring with the launch of a digital campus that will provide a more cohesive place for digital programs past and present to live,” Walls added.

Among AAMP’s current and upcoming programs and exhibits:

  • Rendering Justice: An exploration of the lived experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals and an examination of mass incarceration, created in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia.
  • Anna Russell Jones: The Art of Design (on view Spring 2021): This exhibition highlights the diverse treasures of AAMP’s permanent collection through the original art and design work of Anna Russell Jones (1902-1995), the first African American graduate of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now Moore College of Art and Design, and an alumna of the anatomy department of Howard Medical School, now Howard University College of Medicine.
  • ArtBreak at AAMP: A mid-day art talk, offered on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month, that examines the work of various Black artists in Philadelphia.
  • AAMP Book Club: This docent-run book club often features author visits and meets bi-monthly via Zoom to reflect upon a recently released or relevant book in relation to current AAMP exhibitions or other important topics.
  • Learning Through the Arts (LTTA) Workshops: Perfect for ages 12-and-up, AAMP’s Learning through the Arts program offers participants an opportunity to interact with artists and historians, express their ideas through lively discussions and participation, and gain cultural literacy as well as an important communication and critical thinking skills. These workshops are available monthly or by request.

“Having a museum like AAMP to celebrate the richness and vibrancy of African American heritage and culture is such a great asset for the City of Philadelphia,” said Vernita Dorsey, Senior Vice President, Director of Community Strategy, WSFS Bank. “WSFS is honored to support the Museum in the great work it does and it has been amazing to see AAMP bring its programs virtual to expand their reach.”

“AAMP benefits from being part of an extremely collaborative cultural center in Philadelphia,” said Claiborne. “There’s a spirit of working together that is an important part of the city, and the Museum benefits from that. Our reach is wider and deeper because we operate in a city that really values the ways we can work together.”

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