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Three Years Later, Virginia Welcomes Back Its Black History Museum

Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

Virginians have the chance now to visit the newly opened Black History Museum in Richmond. After a three year hiatus, while the museum moved to a new building, the cultural center opened back up in a historic space this week.

From outside, the building looks like a castle with old brick and four turrets. It was built as a base for Richmond’s first black regiment in the 1890’s. Today, the inside is clean, white, and filled with screens. 

Credit VCU Libraries/Flickr
The Leigh Street Armory in Richmond's Jackson Ward neighborhood now hosts the state's Black History Museum.

I stand in front of a digital wall with Museum Manager Mary Lauderdale, she demonstrates their potential by tapping on one screen revealing a long line of dates. 

"There’s 11 panels here, and when you touch the screen a timeline of history comes up," Lauderdale says. "And it goes all the way from BCE to 2015.”

Each date is linked to an important points in U.S. and Virginia history related to African-Americans. For instance, 1990. That was the year Doug Wilder, a grandson of slaves, was sworn in as Virginia’s Governor. He was the first black elected governor of any U.S. State.

Lauderdale says this isn’t just black history, but American history.

“It would be great someday if I worked my way out of a job, that it’s just all inclusive, all the layers of history are told together," Lauderdale says. "But, in the meantime, it shows folks that it’s not just about those Martin Luther Kings of this world, but that we’re all a part of this history.”

That’s an idea being recognized on a national level as well.  The Smithsonian Museum of African-American history is set to open in D.C. next September.

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