Commentary: Museum a Gem in a Struggling Detroit

Commentary: Museum a Gem in a Struggling Detroit

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History may lose over $1,000,000, but shouldn’t that money be invested?

Published May 20, 2011

If our kids ever ask, “What was slavery?” that would be a sad day.


The possibility of losing an institution to formally document our history, however, may not be far away.


Wednesday reported that under Detroit’s new proposed budget, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History would lose approximately $1,025,000. So that made us question: What would the implications be if the museum were to close?


Founded and established in 1965, the museum houses more than 30,000 artifacts and archival materials. When visiting this history center you’ll find pieces from the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad collection, artifacts owned by Harriet Tubman and documents from the labor movement in Detroit.


If closed, the items would no longer be available for viewing at the museum.


But other than just having the task of housing items, it seems as if this museum holds invaluable significance in a city plagued with unemployment.


“The museum is a source of pride for the city of Detroit, being the world's largest institution dedicated to the African-American experience. We serve as a center of community," Ted Canaday, CHW museum director of marketing/communications, tells


In fact, The museum promotes community in Detroit.


It’s not uncommon to find more than art exhibits being shown at the museum. This week you can attend Hustle for History, the museum’s weekly hustle lessons, or sip on some of the finest white or red wines all produced by African-American vintners at the museum’s Wine Tasting Experience.


I’m sure sipping on a glass or wine—all while being a couple halls away from an actual aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen—is a far more interesting experience than being at a local pub.


Through initiating creative events throughout the years in the struggling city, it seems as if the museum has dodged the financial-curveballs thrown their way.


“All the cultural institutions are experiencing funding difficulties, but we have not allowed ourselves to run deficits. We have become as lean as we can,” Candaday says of cuts made in previous years.


If anything, it seems as if money should be invested into cultural institutions that seek to educate in a fun way—for children and adults.


The museum declined to comment on the city’s proposed budget.


Like the resilience of those once enslaved, and the buoyancy of Detroit residents, let’s hope that we can keep our history alive in the city of Detroit.

(Photo: Wikicommons)

Written by Danielle Wright


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