By Andrea Valdez
Broadcast News Director
Photo by Andrea Valdez
The Texas African American Museum is a new attraction in Tyler that started to educate and inform visitors about African American history and culture, both on the regional and national level.
“History is important to all of us. Whether it is Black, white, Hispanic or any other form of history, it is important for individuals to preserve history and recognize it,” said Gloria Washington, executive director for the Texas African American Museum.
In 2018, TAAM did not have a standing building and was exclusively on social media. Today, the museum is on its third standalone location and is working to expand its space. The previous two locations were originally located on Erwin and near Griffin Elementary School but are no longer in those locations.
“The city gifted us this building Nov. 12, 2020, and we moved in shortly thereafter,” Washington said.
The founding members for the museum are Gloria Washington and Clarence Shackelford. The building where the museum stands used to be the city’s fire station, which the city of Tyler donated.
According to the Empowerment Community Development Cooperation website, it is a 501(c) organization “with a focus on education, arts, tourism, veteran services, scholarships, grants, youth mentorship, history preservation, community development, housing and economic power, small and minority owned businesses.” The museum is a 501(c)(3) organization, making it a nonprofit organization under the support of the Empowerment CDC.
“The museum is under the auspice of Empowerment Community Development Cooperation (Empowerment CDC, which is our parent company,” Washington said.
February is known as Black History Month. Created by Carter G. Woodson in 1926 as one week expanded to a month by 1976 to highlight the accomplishments of Black Americans in the U.S. TAAM is honoring the month through tributes to African American females throughout history and artifacts that are on display.
“Right now, we are honoring African American females that have contributed to society and plus we’re doing tour in groups of five, but you have to be COVID conscious and follow the COVID protocol. You must wear a mask and you must social distance,” Washington said.
African American females being honored are Bessie Coleman, who is the first African American woman to be a pilot; current Vice President Kamala Harris, the first African American woman in this leadership position; and Tyler native Willie Lee Glass, whom the Glass Recreation Center in Tyler is named after.
Admission is free for the museum, but the TAAM is hoping to expand the space of the museum with the help of visitors and the community through donations. Donations can be dropped off at the museum on Fridays and Saturdays during opening hours where someone at the front will collect the donation or by check addressed to the Texas African American Museum.
“We are trying to raise a million dollars so that we can renovate and restore the building because,” Washington said. They are attempting to raise the money for the building because, “it was not in tip top shape when we received the building from the city,” Washington said.
The museum is located at 309 W Martin Luther King Jr Blvd in Tyler, and it is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.