In February 1968, Professor Leroy Leonardo Ramsey set up a Black History exhibit at Nassau Community College, in celebration of Black History Month. At February’s end, the exhibit was left in place (due to popular demand) and Ramsey used his personal collection of artifacts to change the exhibit from time to time.
Before long, the exhibit outgrew its space and Ramsey established the Black History Exhibit Center in a store front at 106-A Main St. in Hempstead. In 1984, Nassau County purchased the building at 110 North Franklin St. and Ramsey’s Black History Exhibit Center became the African American Museum of Nassau County and moved into the current location in 1985.
The African Atlantic Genealogical Society, Inc. (TAAGS) became affiliated with the museum in 1998, making the African American Museum unique as the first museum to house a genealogical society that provides workshops and consultations for the community.
Under management of TAAGS, since February 2012, the museum provides programming that includes art exhibits and art education, genealogical and historical research, themed exhibits that focus on historical figures and events, reading and discussion programs sponsored by the New York State Council on the Humanities, theatrical and musical programs sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts, and screening and discussion programs.
“I’d love for the average person to just come in and learn something,” said Executive Director of the Nassau County African American Museum Joysetta Pearce. The museum gets a lot of school-aged visitors, but Pearce said she’d be thrilled to see an increase in museum visitors.
The museum hosts a Saturday class including Hands-On-Art (for children and adults), English as a Second Language (ESL), and prep classes for the U.S. citizenship test. AAM is a participating institution of two prestigious annual art festivals, ArtHamptons and ArtMarketHamptons.
In addition to AAM’s permanent collection “It’s Eclectic!” Sculptures and Artifacts from Africa and the Diaspora, current exhibits include Ernani Silva’s The Good the Bad and the Beautiful; Black Royals series: Queen Charlotte and Queen Philippa; “Eubie’s Corner” Memorabilia of Hubert “Eubie” Blake, including his grand piano; and a Liberian wood-carved mural.
General viewing of AAM’s Sons: Seeing the Modern Black Man exhibit, by photographer Jerry Taliaferro, opens on Tuesday, Feb. 2, and runs through the end of June.
AAM’s Black Heritage Stamp Series collection contains an impressive 22 of the 38 honorees, on display at the museum. On Saturday, Feb. 6, at 11 a.m. the museum will unveil a new stamp, the 2016 honoree, Richard Allen.
The African American Museum, open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, is located at 110 North Franklin St. in Hempstead. Admission is $5 for a self-guided tour, $8 for a docent-led tour and $10 for workshops and videos.
Visit www.theaamuseum.org or call 516-572-0730 for more information.
Read more about Brazilian artist Ernani Silva.