Portrait of boy and girl, Oliver Denny photographer, Sacramento,1867 Royal E. Towns papers
I started my tenure as Interim Chief Curator at the African American Museum and Library on October 21. It’s been an eventful and productive couple of months. The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is re-dedicating itself to its mission – to preserve and make accessible the history of African Americans in the Bay Area and California. We want people to know that our doors are open. Our research collections are available for researchers of all types from high school students and local residents to worldwide academic scholars. Our museum space invites collaborative exhibits and stimulating programs. The wonderful staff here is knowledgeable and skilled at assisting researchers and partnering with the community. During the hours we’re open, when you travel down 14th Street near Martin Luther King Jr., Way where AAMLO is located, you might notice something new on our front steps – a big, green-and-white sign that says it all – “Welcome. Please Come In."
Portrait of girl sitting in a chair Royal E. Towns papers
After my years as a researcher, curator, poet, and lecturer, I’ve become familiar with nearly every repository that houses significance resources for researching California’s African American past. And we in the Oakland Public Library system should be proud, because there is no institution like AAMLO in the state. AAMLO houses extraordinary resources. We have a special collection of published materials related to African American studies in our reference library, along with an archive of more than 160 collections encompassing family papers, institutional records, periodicals, and artifacts some of which go back to the 19th century. And we are expanding our collection by working with collectors, elders, community members, and historians. The story of California’s longstanding African American presence is still under-researched and little known. But as we steward AAMLO into its revitalized future, that story – or the many stories – that represent such a rich history will be saved and available for all.
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance office, Los Angeles, circa 1930s Roberts Family papers
Second from left, Norman O. Houston, co-founder, Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company. Seated next to Houston is Frederick M. Roberts, the first African American elected to the State Legislature in 1919, and on the right, seated, is George A. Beavers, co-founder, Golden State Mutual.