America's Black Holocaust Museum
America's Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM), located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was the only memorial dedicated specifically to the victims of the enslavement of Africans in the United States. It was founded by James Cameron, then the United States' last living survivor of a lynching.
After surviving a lynching attempt and imprisonment, starting at the age of 16, James Cameron became determined to change his life. He got an education, worked hard, and studied all his life about slavery and the African-American experience in the United States. He worked in civil rights, wrote independent articles, and collected materials having to do with African-American history.
After retirement, Cameron and his wife visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel. He thought that the focus on the personal history of individuals and their stories, rather than on numbers and processes, led to a better understanding of the reality of the Holocaust. Then living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1988 he founded the museum, with the help of philanthropist Daniel Bader, having been collecting materials on the African-American experience in the US for many years.
ABHM's facility, located in Milwaukee, was the only memorial dedicated specifically to the victims of the enslavement of Africans in the United States.
Cameron died in 2006; in 2008, the museum's board of directors announced that the museum would be closed temporarily because of financial problems. Its former building never re-opened, and remains vacant as of July 2014.
A new ABHM was established as a "virtual museum" by ABHM's Board of Directors, after the bricks-and-mortar museum had been closed since 2008. The new format came online as a virtual museum on February 25, 2012, in celebration of Cameron's birthday and Black History Month. Eventually a local presence will be re-established as well through temporary and permanent exhibits in public buildings, such as Milwaukee Area Technical College and other educational institutions.
The online museum is now operated by the nonprofit Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation Inc.
America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) exists to educate the public of injustices suffered by people of African-American heritage, while providing visitors with an opportunity to rethink their assumptions about race and racism.
While there is also a Black Holocaust memorial in Savannah, Georgia, the ABHM facility served as a center for education and scholarship related to the Black Holocaust and as a non-threatening forum for sharing thoughts about race and racism in America.
Exposing visitors to historical aspects of African-American cultural identity was achieved through educational exhibits, special programming, and guided tours related to six distinct historic eras, which are replicated in the Virtual Museum:
- Before Captivity in Africa
- The Middle Passage
- Slavery in the Americas
- Reconstruction era of the United States
- Civil Rights
- Modern Day Injustices
ABHM welcomed visitors of all races and backgrounds, and encouraged community understanding of the nation’s history of racism, prejudice, social change and cross-cultural understanding.