History of the Evansville African American Museum
When Sondra L. Matthews, the Editor and Publisher of Our Times Newspaper, realized that demolition of Lincoln Gardens, a 16- square block housing development was imminent, she appeared before the Evansville Housing Authority (EHA) Board of Commissioners on August 19, 1997. She requested a stay of the wrecking ball to the Lincoln Avenue units that Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated in 1937. Ms. Matthews recalled for the Commissioners what Lincoln Gardens meant to her, and numerous other Black families, while growing up at 517 S. Governor Street, Apartment 179. The Gardens was one of the first federally built public housing in the nation. Her request was taken under advisement.
On August 27, 1997 a small group of former residents of Lincoln Gardens, and other interested persons, met with EHA Executive Director John Collier and together they further explored the idea of saving a building within Lincoln Gardens for an Mrican American Museum. It would house the history of Lincoln Gardens and the black families who lived there. On September4, 1997, Collier was appointed to create a non-profit corporation “to manage the Museum and to seek all grants and donations to make the Museum a reality.” As a result, Resolution 97-09-1 was adopted by the EHA Board of Commissioners with Jerome C. Kissel, chairman. The Museum incorporation was certified by the State of Indiana, Office of the Secretary of State and it came into existence September 26, 1997. Members of the new Indiana Corporation were Jeanette Benton, Jerome Kissel, Jack Burtrum, Cateena Johnson, all Commissioners, and George Barnett, Jr., a Board attorney.
On October 28tha board was formed consisting of Lucian Snaden, President of Lincoln Clark-Douglass Alumni, Constance Robinson, 4th Ward/Evansville President City Council, Harold Jackson, retired retail manager, Estella Moss, former Vanderburgh Country Recorder, Michelle Quinn, Community Reinvestment Act Officer at Old National Bank; and Jeanette Benton and John Collier, both EHA officials, along with Ms. Matthews. Upon election of officers, Matthews was elected President; Jackson, Vice President, and Collier, Secretary-Treasurer. On January 19, 1999, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at 534 S. Garvin, announcing the opening of its west-most unit as the Museum office. In December 1999, a long-awaited federal tax-exempt 501 (C) (3) Determination letter arrived, giving the Board the ammunition it needed to commence membership drives and its fund-raising efforts. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service granted the Corporation not for-profit mailing status.
Member of the Association of African-American Museums and the Museum Alliance of Downtown Evansville.
Copyright 2006-2009, Evansville African American Museum, All rights reserved.