History of NAAM

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” ~ Marcus Garvey 

 

Collage from 80s flyer

 

1981 

The idea of an African American museum housed in the Colman School building is proposed to Mayor Charles Royer by the Community Exchange, a multi-racial coalition 

1984 

A Task Force is formed to establish an African American museum 

 

 

1985 

The previous Colman School was selected to be the home of the museum.  African American community activists Earl Debnam, Michael Greenwood, Charlie James and Omari Tahir Garrett occupy the recently closed Colman School to establish and claim the site as the desired museum location. 

1986 – 1990 

Colman Building pre-rennovation

A continuous search for other possible locations. The City of Seattle, Seattle School District, and community activists explore other possible locations for a museum. 

1993 

A not-for-profit organization called the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center is formed.  A Board of Directors is selected to oversee the project with Mayor Norman Rice’s office. 

1995 

Mayor Norman Rice appoints Bob Flowers to chair the African American Heritage Museum Board. 

2001 – 2003 

Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, under the leadership of the Board of Directors and CEO James Kelly, takes on the project and purchases the Colman School building purchased in 2003 from the Seattle School District. 

Dr. Carver Gayton

 

2004 – 2005 

Dr. Carver Gayton is appointed Executive Director and Barbara Earl Thomas is appointed Deputy Director of the Northwest African American Museum. 

2006 

The Museum gains independence from the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and obtains its own 501(c)3 status. 

 

 

2008 

Barbara Earl Thomas

The Museum opens its doors to the public on March 8, 2008—the realization of a dream 25 years in the making. 

2012 

The Museum completes a 5-Year Strategic Plan and adopts a new mission statement.  

2013 

The Museum celebrates its 5th Anniversary. 

2018 

The Museum experiences a rebirth as it celebrates its 10th Anniversary.