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Enjoy a Visit to the New African American Museum of Southern AZ

The African American Museum of Southern Arizona had their Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on January 14, 2023, at their new location at the University of Arizona. This event hosted approximately 360 visitors with a line leading across the Student Union. As of now they are open by appointment only and will announce when they are fully open.

The museum was started by the Elliot family after their grandson asked where was the museum to learn about African American people who lived here (Tucson), and they told him there was not one. He recommended that there should be a museum, and Beverely Elliot agreed. Two years later, their museum is now open.

The African American Museum of Southern Arizona features exhibits covering the Buffalo Soldiers, the Wham Paymaker Robbery of 1889, Martin Luther King Day, Fred Snowden, Margaret J. Campbell, Quincie Douglas, Thomas Blacksher, Marian Anderson, the Underground Railroad, Azie Taylor Morton, Booker T. Washington, and many other stories including oral histories. There are activities available including Medal of Honor, MLK Dream speech, and Family Archiving/Storytelling activities perfect for all ages.

As of now visit appointments are offered on an hourly basis. I recommend using the full hour to listen, read, and fully take in all of the stories being presented. Take the time to read the plaques, brochures, and captions while listening to your tour guide and watching the videos on the televisions around the museum to get the full experience.

The tour began with the Buffalo Soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers were African American soldiers who were stationed at Camp Naco during the Mexican Revolution. Camp Naco was an adobe military camp built in 1919 manned by the Ninth and Tenth Calvary of Buffalo Soldiers. Since it was made of adobe it could not be deconstructed as the other camps were, and still exists today. Efforts to preserve and reuse the site are underway now. To learn more about Camp Naco, visit here.

My time visiting the African American Museum of Southern Arizona informed me of stories from Tucson that I did not previously know, despite having grown up here. For example, I was able to learn more about Fred Snowden and his time as the first African American head basketball coach of a Division I school – the University of Arizona. I was also able to see a video of the University of Arizona’s first Martin Luther King Day March in 1983. There were many amazing people and stories that I was able to learn about during my visit, and I highly recommend going to learn them yourself. It is important for us to learn the full history of the places we visit and call home.

Their February hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 AM – 4 PM, and March hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10 AM – 4PM. They will be closed from February 22-28 for Tucson Rodeo Days and March 1-14 for the Festival of Books and UA Spring Break. Check out their website here to learn more about the museum, their exhibits, upcoming events and to schedule your visit.

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