Museum En Black began as as "pop up" exhibit in the Alton Square Mall on March 2, 2012. Until then, exhibits on African American history were regulated to a Black History Month event. Randolph was a member of Supreme Divas Plus, a singing group that had performed in past years at the mall during Black History Month. When she found out that no one was organizing the event this year because the previous coordinator retired, she made some phone calls. After passing the recently vacated New York & Co. fashion store, she knew it would be the perfect place for her museum. The "living" museum was a hit and the exhibit was expanded annually. Visitors from Chicago, Peoria, Kankakee, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Belleville, Scott Air Force Base, O'Fallon, Cahokia, East Saint Louis, Madison, Venice, Granite City, Collinsville, Glen Carbon, Carbondale, Troy, Brighton, Carlinville, Jerseyville, Woodburn, Greenville and Quincy throughout Illinois. Ferguson, Florissant, University City, Clayton, Kansas City, St. Louis (MO) and surrounding states beyond come to see and experience authentic African-American history.
Prior Black History Month events consisted of bulletin boards with information and photos tacked to them. They were used in the exhibit with artifacts from people's lives, such as family quilts, a hassock brought back from Egypt, kufi hats made of Kente cloth, old LPs and 78 records. There were many paintings by Susan Regina Shaw, an artist and civil rights activist. She started painting when she was 4 and uses acrylics in her "primitive art" style, using bold strokes and bright colors. A quilt depicting the Stewart and Armstead family tree was also displayed.
Minnie Taylor came to see the exhibits. She moved to Alton in 1966 when her first husband got a job with Olin. She shared stories with Shaw about their mothers' sewing skills, reminiscing about cotton sack dresses and "britchin' quilts" made from scraps cut from old pants. Other quilts on display were hand-crafted by Georgia Bratton of Alton and Catherine Smith from St. James Quilters, but probably none more important to the African-American experience than ones depicting Underground Railroad symbols. The quilts guided fleeing slaves to freedom in the Northern states and Canada.
Museum En Black offers an ever-changing lineup of exhibits. It's worth coming back to as there is always something for everyone to enjoy. Our website offers a great opportunity to learn more about Museum En Black. You can read about its history and stay up-to-date on related news and events. We are in need of volunteers! If you are interested, please fill out the form below.
Museum En Black
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Our exhibits change regularly. Contact our team to be informed about our current exhibits.