By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 28, 2021 at 10:30 AM

The long-awaited reopening of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, 401 W. North Ave., is upon us.

Dr. Bert Davis, the museum’s president and CEO, announced in a Facebook Live on Tuesday morning that the museum, which documents more than 400 years of American history, will “reemerge” on Feb. 25, 2022.

That date would have been the 108th birthday of museum founder Dr. James Cameron.

"This is a momentus occasion," said Davis, just before making the announcement. "I am praying to the good Lord that I don't break down in tears right now.

"What we're doing here today does not happen. It has probably been five or fewer than five African American cultural institutions that have closed and then reopened."

The museum was founded in 1988 in a previous building on the site by the late Dr. Cameron, who survived a lynching as a teenager in Indiana.

The old building
The previous building. (PHOTO: ABHM)

Cameron died in 2006 at the age of 92.

The 2008 recession led to the closing of the original museum, which shifted to an online presence four years later.

A new building was completed in 2018 as part of a broader development project that included apartments in the former Garfield Avenue School and above the museum.

Exhibits were installed the following year and although it hadn’t opened to the general public, events were held in the beautiful new space, allowing many to see the striking and informative displays inside.

Starting with the story of African peoples before captivity, the galleries explore the Middle Passage, enslavement, Reconstruction, life under Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement and more.

According to ABHM, “America’s Black Holocaust Museum, an integrated physical and virtual experience, will continue to serve as a catalyst to educate and create space for critical conversation, reconciliation and healing, in order to promote a more equitable world without racism.”

In January 2020, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and anonymous donors gave a Sanford Biggers sculpture and $1.12 million to ABHM.

"The reemergence of the museum is critical for a time such as this, and I am honored and humbled to continue the work and the legacy of our founder, Dr. James Cameron," said Davis when that gift was received.

The museum had planned to reopen last summer in time for the arrival of the Democratic National Convention, but the coronavirus pandemic stymied those plans.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.