Thursday, April 8, 7 p.m.
Presented by the Bettendorf Public Library
A fascinating virtual program in the Bettendorf Public Library's popular “Community Connections” series, Endless Possibilities: Iowa's African American History will boast a presentation by members of Cedar Rapids' African American Museum of Iowa, the April 8 event continuing the venue's stated mission “to preserve, publicize, and educate the public on the African American heritage and culture of Iowa.”
The African American Museum of Iowa was had its origins in 1994 thanks to a small group from the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, and was designed with the goal of preserving the heritage of African Americans in Iowa in celebration of Black History Month. That year, the African American Heritage Foundation, Inc. was chartered in Iowa as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and four years later, the Foundation hired its first full-time employee, Joseph McGill, who served as Executive Director. In 2000, a temporary museum opened in Cedar Rapids' Westdale Mall, and in April of 2002, construction began on a new 17,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility along the Cedar River. On September 19 of 2003, a grand opening was held for the African American Museum of Iowa, highlighting the museum's first permanent exhibit Doorways: A History of African Americans in Iowa, and the following year brought the creation of an endowment fund for the museum, as well as the opening of a new Africa section of the permanent exhibition. In that exhibit, visitors started in West Africa, where they passed through the “Door of No Return,” and entered a slave ship to experience the notorious Middle Passage from Africa to the United States.
Museum chapters were established in eight communities across Iowa in 2006, and in 2007, the African American Museum of Iowa received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to hire and train two staff members to coordinate the chapter program. Later that same year, the AAMI received a second grant from the IMLS to conduct the statewide oral-history project Adult Voices – Children’s Eyes: Iowa's African American Oral History Project. This innovative and ongoing project trained youth groups across Iowa to conduct oral histories in their communities. These sessions recorded important events and sparked a passion for history among African American youth. Currently, the museum educates over 30,000 people a year through events and programs including museum tours, traveling exhibits, and the permanent exhibit Endless Possibilities, with the Bettendorf Library's April 8 program featuring information on topics such as Iowa, in 1868, being the very first state in the country to officially integrate its public schools.
Endless Possibilities: Iowa's African American History will be presented via GoToMeeting at 7 p.m. on April 8, and although the viewing is free, registration is required to receive a link and password to join the program. For information, call (563)344-4175 or visit BettendorfLibrary.org.