Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum

Travel Guide - Fort Wayne

African/African-American Historical Society Museum
Fort Wayne, Indiana

African/African-American Historical Society Museum
436 East Douglas Ave.
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
Tues. - Fri.: 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Sat.: 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Sun.: by appointment only

Before heading to Fort Wayne, we searched the Internet for information about this museum. We were happy to see the museum included on the city of Ft. Wayne’s website. In addition, the Museum has a website with lots of historical data as well as detailed information indicating how to reach the museum. On Saturday, July 29, 2006, the Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum visited the African/African American History Museum. It is located at 436 East Douglas Ave., Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The hours of operation are Tuesday-Friday 9am – 1 pm, Saturday 12 noon – 4 pm, and Sunday by appointment only. Visit them on-line at www.African-Americanfw.com.

When we arrived, we were greeted at the front counter and paid our $3.00 entrance fee. We received a brochure detailing the museum’s mission, the hours of operation, and the current exhibits. There are 10 exhibits - Welcome to America, An African Village, Black Inventors, Local Black Churches, Music of My People, Local History, the Underground Railroad, Sports Archives, and a memorial for co-founder, William Warfield.  There is a Reading Room with several jigsaw puzzles on the work table and a small gift shop is located near the front entrance of the museum.

African/African American History Museum

The founding curator, Mrs. Hana  Stith, introduced herself and conducted our tour of the facility. Before beginning the official tour, we discuss how the museum got started and her role in establishing the museum. This Historical Society and Museum grew our of a need to have more African/African American involvement in preserving and presenting the history of  African and African-Americans in the local community. The society was founded on May 17, 1998.

Stith described the details of renovating the historic building. In May 1999, the Society secured a long-term lease on a building, owned by the Fort Wayne Ministerial Alliance.  Much work had to be done on the building and a number of individuals and organizations answered the clarion call. Phase one of the Museum opened on February 1, 2000. A grand opening and Millennium Celebration was held and a drama troupe from Washington DC presented the production of “Redemption Ritual” at North Side High School. Phase two which included the upstairs, was opened on June 1, 2000.

Stith was eager to share her future plans and goals. She told us that she received community support - from blacks and whites - from its inception. She told us a story about a lady who came in and insisted that some of the photographs should be framed. She carried them away to be custom framed and paid for them with her own funds. She gave other examples of people who donated artifacts and money to get the museum off to a good start. Our tour took a couple of hours as Stith guided us through each room and each exhibit. She often told us to sit down while she educated us about African instruments, black inventors, and important people in Fort Wayne. We shared information about Gloria Morton-Finney, the daughter of WWI Buffalo Soldier, John Morton-Finney. Gloria was the first African American teacher in Fort Wayne. Stith shared her vision to purchase the lot adjacent to the museum and construct a new building for the collection. She was excited to tell us about a recent grant that she received to exhibit the life and works of John James Audubon.

Stith shared some background information that led her to this museum. She is a native of Fort Wayne and received her education from Central High School. She attended Wilberforce University and graduated from St. Francis College with her Bachelor of Science and Masters Degrees. She continued her education at Ball State University and received certification in Guidance and Counseling from Purdue University.  The curator developed an interest in African American History in 1966 through her teaching at McCulloch School. As part of the Bicentennial Celebration in 1975, she and another teacher conducted research for Ft. Wayne’s black history project by working with Allen County Historical Museum. For 25 years, she collected information on local history. In 1998, an African American Historical Society was formed, with Stith serving as temporary chairperson. In 1999, she founded a home for the African/African-American Historical Society Museum.  It started with an idea and those who assisted Stith in this effort had no formal education in the museum field. They did have a vision to ensure that the accomplishments of the local black citizens of Fort Wayne and Allen County be saved and shared with future generations.

We recommend that you visit this museum and encourage others to support their efforts. Several publications from the museum archives such as “African American Politicians of the Reconstruction Era 1870-1901” or “Ft. Wayne Educators” are available in the gift shop. Check it out!

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