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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM

AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM

The AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM, formerly the Afro-American Cultural & Historical Society Museum (est. 15 April 1953, inc. December 1960), located at 1765 Crawford Rd. in Cleveland, is a nonprofit cultural and educational museum which works "to eliminate the distorted portrayal of the images of black people" and to educate young people about the positive contributions of blacks to the cultures of the world. One man, Icabod Flewellen (b. 6 July 1916), instigated the museum's founding. Flewellen grew up in Williamson, WV, listening to his father, a railroad brakeman, describe African American inventors' contributions to RAILROADS. At age 13, he began gathering newspaper clippings and artifacts pertaining to black history, but an arson fire destroyed his collection. In 1953 Flewellen moved to Cleveland. His new collection of materials became the nucleus of the Afro-American Cultural & Historical Society Museum, located in Flewellen's home at 8716 Harkness Rd., from 1953 until March 1968, when it was moved to a classroom at St. Marian's School, 2212 Petrarca Rd. In May 1973, the collection (then more than 200,000 items) was moved to 1839 E. 81st St., where it was housed until February 1983, when the CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY leased Flewellen its Treasure House building on Crawford Rd. CPL turned over the management of the building to the museum in Sept. 1984. Flewellen worked other jobs to support this project: as a messenger for the Veteran's Administration for 21 years, then as a maintenance worker at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV. during the 1970s. As interest in black history increased, he received grants for special projects, such as a $10,000 grant from the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION (1970) to catalog his collection. The Ohio Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities also provided support, and in 1983 the museum received a $50,000 community development block grant for lectures to schoolchildren and community groups. In 1992 the museum received grants from the Cleveland and Gund Foundations.The museum building was renamed for Flewellen in 1987, and in 1995 he was granted emeritus status by the museum's Board of Trustees. In 1993 Linda Cross was named director.

As of 2011, the museum is closed due to structural problems with the building and lack of funds. The museum is currently raising funds to re-open.


See also LIBRARIES, ARCHIVES & HISTORICAL SOCIETIES.