Grant Helps African American History Museum Regain Momentum
Failed furnaces put collections at Fort Wayne’s African/African-American Historical Society Museum at risk.
A Gift to the Community
At one time, the neighborhood southeast of downtown Fort Wayne was home to many of the city’s Black residents. As the business district expanded following World War II, commercial buildings, offices, and parking lots claimed many of the area’s older houses. One unlikely survivor serves today as home of the African/African-American Historical Society Museum of Fort Wayne, founded in 2000 to share the cultural heritage of Africa and the achievements of Blacks locally and nationally.
Located at 436 E. Douglas Avenue, the duplex that houses the museum’s collection has its own story to tell. It is the only building still standing in Fort Wayne once listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for African Americans published between 1936 to 1967 to chronicle businesses safe to visit. Listed as “Mrs. B. Talbot’s Tourist Home,” the large Victorian residence offered shelter for Black travelers who were not welcomed in local, white-owned hotels.
The museum includes the area’s largest public collection of African art, as well as documents, photos, and artifacts highlighting Allen County’s Black and African American history from 1809 to present day.
The organization flourished in its mission until COVID temporarily closed its doors to regular visitors. The museum’s central heating system began to malfunction in early 2022, affecting hours of operation and threatening the valuable artifacts stored inside.
Now, the museum is beginning to regain its momentum, aided by a $7,500 grant from the Standiford H. Cox Fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation to help install a pair of high-efficiency furnaces, providing consistent heat to the building. Indiana Landmarks serves as a preservation advisor to the fund, which supports the restoration, preservation, operation, and ongoing maintenance of African American sites in Indiana.
“Without a proper heating system, our organization was in jeopardy and our collection was at risk,” says Leah Reeder, museum board chairman. “We can now keep our doors open to all, preserving historical artifacts and educating the next generation about the rich heritage contained within our walls. The Cox Fund grant is not only a gift to our organization but to our community as a whole.”
You can learn more about the museum on Facebook. To schedule a visit, call 260-467-1457 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay up to date on the latest news, stories, and events from Indiana Landmarks, around the state or in your area.