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)

ABHM bdg ext

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.

July 2017

SUNDAY, JULY 23rd – 10:00-11:00AM

The Hidden History and Impact of Segregation in Ozaukee County

Lecture/Q & A by Reggie Jackson, ABHM Head Griot (Oral Historian)


How did Ozaukee County, along with the other counties and suburbs ringing Milwaukee, lead to that city becoming the most racially segregated metropolitan area in the nation? Segregation, it turns out, is not accidental.

Reggie Jackson, ABHM’s Head Griot (oral historian), gives the talk that has been packing venues from Shorewood to Waukesha to Milwaukee’s Southside.

His presentation, tailored to each neighborhood or city where he speaks, examines the role played by national and local policies and social systems. These systems have promoted and maintained an artificial separation between white and black citizens – and other residents of color. Finally, he explains how segregation negatively impacts the economic and social well-being of all the residents of this region. The talk is followed by a Q & A session.

Unitarian Church North

13800 N. Port Washington Road, Mequon WI 53097

Free and open to the public

About Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson first volunteered with America’s Black Holocaust Museum in 2002. A year later, he was appointed Head Griot (pronounced GREE-oh) and began training the new griots. By the time the bricks-and-mortar museum closed in June 2008, he had led hundreds of tours.

Reggie became a close friend and protegé of ABHM founder, Dr. James Cameron. Since Cameron’s death in 2006, Reggie has served as an expert on the life of this unsung civil rights hero and lynching survivor. He authored the Afterword of Dr. Cameron’s memoir, A Time of Terror: A Survivors Story, 3rd edition.

After the building closed, Reggie joined a task force of community activists determined to keep Dr. Cameron’s museum and legacy alive. They formed the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation and in 2012 began to operate

ABHM Head Griot Reggie Jackson giving his address accepting the SE WI YWCA’s 2015 Eliminating Racism Award.

America’s Black Holocaust Museum as a “museum without walls.”

Reggie served as the Cameron Legacy Foundation’s first board president until January 2017 and helped establish not only the online museum but also the popular Griots To Go Speakers Bureau.

In his role as ABHM’s Head Griot, Reggie has been a much sought-after speaker on Black Holocaust topics regionally and nationally for over a decade. He presents the untold and seldom-told stories in African-American history at schools, libraries, churches, and businesses – and conducts diversity and race relations training.

Mr. Jackson has also taught Contemporary Social Problems and Introduction to Sociology as an adjunct professor at Concordia University and worked as a special education teacher in Milwaukee middle schools.

He is the 2015 winner of the Eliminating Racism Award from southeast Wisconsin’s YWCA and the 2016 Courageous Love Award from the First Unitarian Society.