African American Cultural & Historical Museum

We Began as a Museum without Walls

The AACHM was established by 23 founding members in 1993 to document, collect, preserve and share African American History in Washtenaw County.

On February 6, 1993, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, a co-founder of the DuSable Museum in Chicago, was the guest speaker at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Delta Psi Omega Chapter Founders Day. She challenged everyone in the room to document and preserve the history of the African American community of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and surrounding areas. Several people signed up to form a museum and from that list, the first full organizational meeting was held at Weatherstone Clubhouse on March 13, 1993. By 1996 we received 501(c)(3) status and rented our first office space at New Center on Main Street. In 1997, The Mosaic Foundation extended a $10,000 challenge grant to the museum for strategic planning and development. The matching funds were raised from within the committed and all volunteer board of directors and founders.

The AACHM was a key partner in extensive research on nineteenth-century antislavery activism and African American community life with the University of Michigan Arts of Citizenship Program in 1999. The research was the foundation for the AACHM’s Journey to Freedom; an Underground Railroad Guided Bus Tour of Washtenaw County. Journey to Freedom, was accepted as an official member in the US Dept. of Interior, National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program in 2004. The research also produced an exhibit Midnight Journey, that tells the story of the UGRR in Michigan. It was recently on display in 2009 at Grand Valley State University for the annual Michigan Freedom Trail Commission Conference.

In 2005 we moved our administrative offices from New Center to the David R. Byrd Center at 3261 Lohr Road in Ann Arbor. This is an 1830s farmhouse restored by the late African American architect David R. Byrd. He also built the chapel that is on the adjacent property. We are currently housed in the Byrd Center and raising money to open and operate a museum at 1528 Pontiac Trail.
Our Mission
To research, collect, preserve and exhibit cultural and historical materials about the life and work of African Americans in Washtenaw County. Click on the Timeline below and read about the programs, tours, exhibits and collaborations the AACHM has been part of.

The photo is of Brown Chapel AME Church in Ypsilanti around 1930. The Church is still in use. The story of Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church goes back to the earliest days of black settlement in Ypsilanti. Meeting first at the homes of Flora Thompson and Sylas Jones homes in 1843, the congregation was recognized in 1848, one of the earliest African American congregations in Michigan. (Photo from the Ypsilanti Historical Society)
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