Our History

History of the Evansville African American Museum

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         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.

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