While I was at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in Richmond this past weekend, my friend James and I visited the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, which is a great little museum that focuses primarily on the historic Jackson Ward district of Richmond. Here’s what the museum looks like from the outside:
The museum has three floors of exhibits. The first floor comprises the museum’s primary collection, which in part tells the story of the Jackson Ward district. This was my favorite part of the museum. You start by watching a brief, 10-minute video about the Jackson ward. While the collection is relatively small, I like that the museum uses it to tell a specific story, the rise of the Jackson Ward as an important cultural center for African Americans and their businesses during the early twentieth century. Interestingly, these businesses were actually hurt by desegregation, since the community dispersed and the businesses has to complete with a wider range of competitors.
The basement houses an exhibit of designs from J. W. Robinson Horne fashion collections. It’s an interesting story, which you can read on the museum’s website; so interesting that I would have enjoyed more information about Horne and what became of him later.
The second floor contained a number of exhibits. My favorite was one on the African American Migration Experience. One thing that fascinated me about this exhibit was its exclusion of Ohio in all of its statistics and images. It made me wonder if Ohio just kept really bad records or the state just didn’t serve as a destination for as many African Americans as we sometimes like to think.
Overall, I thought that this small museum was really interesting and well worth a visit. It was walking distance from our hotel downtown. I’m glad we saw it.