The History & Impact of ABHM

Our History

How ABHM Came to Be

Dr. James Cameron in the museum he established at the age of 74. Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Dr. James Cameron, who survived a lynching as a teenager in 1930, dedicated his life to helping America realize its promise of liberty and justice for all. An early civil rights activist, he fought racial segregation in 1940s Indiana. After moving to Milwaukee, Cameron published a memoir about his lynching and coming of age during the Jim Crow era. He traveled the country educating audiences at high schools, colleges, and other venues about American history seen through the lens of these personal experiences. He was inspired to establish the America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) in 1988 after visiting the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. ABHM’s purpose: to promote the acknowledgement of African American history from pre-captivity to the present as an integral part of US history. Dr. Cameron believed that the truth would set Americans free and make real racial repair and reconciliation possible.

A Place of Pride in Bronzeville (1984-2008)

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ABHM occupied this building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1998 to 2008.

For more than twenty years ABHM stood as a cultural cornerstone in Milwaukee’s historic Black Bronzeville neighborhood, annually educating hundreds of schoolchildren, as well as local, national and international visitors of all ages and backgrounds. It served as a point of pride and meeting place for diverse communities in an otherwise highly segregated city.

Sadly, Dr. Cameron passed away in 2006, and the museum closed during the Great Recession of 2008.

Reborn Online – and Beyond Walls (2012-present)

Four years later, a community task force picked up his mantle. They established the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, which restored ABHM by putting it online.

Like the physical museum, ABHM’s Virtual Museum shares little-known stories chronicling six historical periods: pre-captivity in Africa, the slave ship voyages, slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and the present. It currently comprises some 3,000 web pages of exhibits consisting of interpretative text, still images and videos, original documents, music, works of art, user-generated content, and a blog aggregating history-in-the-making, as reported primarily in the black press.

More than 3.5 million educators, students, and the general public from over 200 countries click on each year. ABHM’s griots (docents) have extended its museum-beyond-walls by engaging thousands of people annually in public history programming and interracial dialogues in libraries, churches, businesses and community organizations.

Restored to a Brand New Building (Summer 2018)

ABHM will be re-established on its old footprint on 4th & North Avenue in Milwaukee WI. The apartment building above it in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood will be called The Griot, in honor of ABHM founder and lynching survivor, Dr. James Cameron.

Now America’s Black Holocaust Museum is coming home to a brand new physical facility – on the ground floor of the newly constructed Griot Building, named for Dr. Cameron – on the very footprint it previously occupied on 4th and North Avenue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ABHM will reopen as a vital component of the City of Milwaukee’s commitment to and investment in the Bronzeville Culture and Entertainment District. As part of a redevelopment project that includes affordable housing and community spaces, this museum will serve as a national model of how public history, arts, culture, and commerce can work in unison to spur economic growth and cultural vitality.

ABHM’s Local, National and International Impact

Desperate Racial Disparities Prevail in Milwaukee and Wisconsin

Milwaukee is the most segregated metropolitan area in the country. A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, concluded, “Children of color face enormous barriers to educational and financial achievement — with Wisconsin ranking last in the disparity between white children and their non-white peers.”  Community leader, historian and ABHM Head Griot Reggie Jackson observes, “The black holocaust is ongoing. There is continued discrimination in housing and jobs, and schools are still segregated.” Unfortunately, Wisconsin has now become the worst place for African-American children to live.

ABHM Brings Hope for Interracial Dialogue, Repair, and Reconciliation

Located in the Milwaukee’s historically black Bronzeville District, ABHM brings a unique history, heart, authenticity, and leadership to the ongoing national conversation about our nation’s tenacious racial disparities – and helps citizens become active participants in racial repair and reconciliation.

The last thirty years have seen a global boom in memorial museums like ABHM, as people around the world struggle to make sense of and heal from traumatic periods of man’s inhumanity to man. ABHM is one of over 200 members of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, which help countries move from memory to action.

The museum’s programs reliably attract packed houses from and within diverse communities. ABHM griots (oral historian-docents) present much sought-after programs that include intergroup dialogues, workshops, lectures, multimedia presentations, panels, book talks, and arts and cultural programs. The griots’ experiences affirm Dr. Cameron’s conviction: there is a palpable hunger to learn how we got here and how we can heal our future. ABHM’s proven methods of interpreting conflicted history through facilitated dialogue provide safe spaces for delicate discussions.

The Museum’s Reach is Global in Both Physical and Cyber Spaces

Our new world-class facility will draw visitors from around the world, as did the earlier ABHM. The museum is situated on the northern edge of Milwaukee’s revitalizing downtown, near our city’s new sports arena, trolley line, conference center and other tourist attractions and accommodations.

A racially/ethnically diverse crowd speaks up at an ABHM Griot To Go presentation about the impact of segregation in Milwaukee.

ABHM’s virtual museum significantly extended our impact on national and international audiences. ABHM griots will expand their work with schools, universities, churches, community-based and arts organizations; develop curricula; lead regional and national conferences; and spearhead collaborative projects within and among groups that are racially, ethnically, socio-economically, and generationally diverse.

To support ABHM’s work, consider making a tax-deductible contribution:

• Click the button below to make an ONLINE DONATION by check*

• Become a member of our LEGACY BUILDERS SOCIETY.*

• Learn about NAMING OPPORTUNITIES* or schedule a VISIT with a CAMPAIGN TEAM MEMBER by contacting 

Karen Coy-Romano, Campaign Counsel


kcoyromano (at)

Thank you so much!

*ABHM is operated by the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation Inc., a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Unrestricted gifts are accepted at all levels and are tax-deductible.

Why It Isn’t Possible For Black Americans To Appropriate African Culture

By Julia Craven, Politics Reporter, The Huffington Post

(Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images) Parade participants march with a tribal themed group wearing colorful face paint. The 46th Annual African-American Day Parade was held in Harlem; the spectators, politicians and prominent members of Harlem's black community celebrated the historically-rich NYC community of those from different African heritages.

(Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Parade participants march with a tribal themed group wearing colorful face paint. The 46th Annual African-American Day Parade was held in Harlem; the spectators, politicians and prominent members of Harlem’s black community celebrated the historically-rich NYC community of those from different African heritages.

Columbus Fortune was the name given to my great-great grandmother’s grandfather. I only know this because my Nana is a stickler for attempting to compose family trees. I say “attempting” because, with the exception of what has been told to us, it is difficult to recount an undocumented lineage.

My grandfather was an enslaved African. He was 18 when slavery was abolished in the United States and I don’t know if he knew his mother, his father, his brothers, his sisters or his grandparents. I do not know if he knew what tribe he hailed from.

For black Americans, tracing our lineages back to their African origins is almost impossible (unless we use DNA testing). African enslavement left us devoid of a way to define ourselves. It severed familial ties and deprived us of any viable opportunity to reclaim them. When we go looking for our ancestors and their culture, we’re chasing shadows.

This is why it hurts when native Africans criticize black American attempts to regain a lost portion of ourselves. Writer Zipporah Gene, who identifies as both British and Nigerian, wrote a post earlier this month claiming that black Americans can appropriate African culture — since we are American — by wearing tribal garb to be “trendy.” Backlash to her piece led her to write an equally obtuse follow-up declaring that, based on her own experiences, it is unnecessary for black people to showcase their Africanness…

It is understandable why an African woman might look at a picture of Afropunk’s New York festival attendees, recoil and believe her culture is being used as a costume (though The Root pointed out that, because of New York’s diversity, whether or not the people in the photo are African-American or African immigrants cannot be determined). But cultural appropriation requires a degree of economic and political privilege black Americans simply do not have. We cannot oppress Africans, shame their cultures, claim it for ourselves and then decide it’s trendy. Even if we could, that’s certainly not what’s happening here, by any stretch of the imagination…


Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.