DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago
The DuSable Museum of African American History is the first and oldest museum dedicated to the study and conservation of African American history, culture, and art. It was founded in 1961 by Dr. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs (sometimes Margaret Burroughs or Margaret Goss Burroughs), her husband Charles Burroughs, Gerard Lew, and others. Dr. Taylor-Burroughs and other founders established the museum to celebrate black culture, then overlooked by most museums and academic establishments. It is located at 740 E. 56th Place at the corner of Cottage Grove Avenue on the South Side of Chicago in the Washington Park community area.
The DuSable Museum was originally chartered on February 16, 1961. Its origins as the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art began following the work of Margaret and Charles Burroughs to correct the perceived omission of black history and culture in the education establishment. The museum was originally located on the ground floor of the Burroughs' home at 3806 S. Michigan Avenue. In 1968, the museum was renamed for Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian fur trader and the first non-Native-American permanent settler in Chicago. During the 1960s, the museum and the South Side Community Art Center, which was located across the street, founded by Taylor-Burroughs and dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt, formed an African American cultural corridor.
The DuSable Museum is the oldest and largest caretaker of African American culture in the United States. Over its long history, it has expanded as necessary to reflect the increased interest in black culture. This willingness to adapt has allowed it to survive while other museums faltered due to a weakening economy and decreased public support. The museum was the eighth one located on Park District land. In the 1980s, African American museums such as the DuSable endured the controversy of whether negative aspects of the cultural history should be memorialized. In the 1990s, the African American genre of museum began to flourish despite financial difficulties.<ref name=AiA/>
The new wing contains a permanent exhibit on Washington with memorabilia, personal effects and surveys highlights of his political career.<ref name=CA/> The museum also serves as the city's primary memorial to du Sable.<ref name="abtdus"/> Highlights of its collection include the desk of activist Ida B. Wells and the violin of poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.
According to a Frommer's review published in The New York Times, the museum has a collection of 13,000 artifacts, books, photographs, art objects, and memorabilia.<ref name=CA/> The DuSable collection has come largely from private gifts. It has United States slavery-era relics, nineteenth- and twentieth-century artifacts, and archival materials, including the diaries of sea explorer Captain Harry Dean. The DuSable collection includes works from scholar W. E. B. Du Bois, sociologist St. Clair Drake, and poet Langston Hughes. The African American art collection contains selections from the South Side Community Art Center students Charles White, Archibald Motley, Jr., Charles Sebree, and Marion Perkins, as well as numerous New Deal Works Progress Administration period and 1960s Black Arts Movement works. The museum also owns prints and drawings by Henry O. Tanner, Richmond Barthé, and Romare Bearden, and has an extensive collection of books and records pertaining to African and African American history and culture.<ref name="chicuc"/>
The original north entrance contains the main lobby of the museum and features the Thomas Miller mosaics, which honor the institution's founders. The building was designed c.1915 by D.H. Burnham and Company to serve as the South Park Administration Building in Washington Park on the city's south side.<ref name="abtdus"/> The new wing is 25000 sqft. The museum has a 466-seat auditorium, which is part of the new wing, that hosts community-related events, such as a jazz and blues music series, poetry readings, film screenings, and other cultural events. The museum also has a gift shop and a research library.<ref name=CA/> As of 2001, the museum operated with a US$2.7 million budget, compared to a $55.7M budget for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.<ref name=AiA/> The museum's funding is partially dependent upon a Chicago Park District tax levy.<ref name="chicuc"/>
After the 1993 expansion of the new wing, the museum contained 50000 sqft of exhibition space. The $4 million expansion was funded by a $2 million matching funds grant from city and state officials.<ref name=TstDM/>
- Barzillai Lew Lew Family
- List of museums focused on African Americans
- List of museums and cultural institutions in Chicago