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The African American Museum of Southern Arizona

The African American Museum of Southern Arizona at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
The African American Museum of Southern Arizona at the University of Arizona, Tucson

Our Mission

The African American Museum of Southern Arizona or AAMSAZ is devoted to gathering and sharing stories, images, and artifacts as we document, digitize, and preserve African American and Black life, culture, and History in Southern Arizona to benefit the Southern Arizona community, our state, and the global community.

Our vision is to serve as a resource to provide the community with an applied and virtual venue and repository for stories, histories, and cultural contributions by African Americans and Blacks in Southern Arizona. We want our guests to celebrate our stories and the stories of African Americans and Blacks worldwide.

Historical Perspective

  • We are authentic as we present a cultural and educational experience by providing items of significance with stories of struggles and triumphs presented by knowledgeable volunteers and staff.
  • We are always inclusive, and as Lonnie G Bunch III, the secretary of the Smithsonian, stated, “We want everyone to participate, collaborate, and learn more about African American history and culture.”
  • AAMSAZ stands as a beacon for social justice in the community. This museum permits the community to improve its knowledge of the struggles and triumphs of the African American experience in Southern Arizona and throughout the country. By being on the campus of the University of Arizona, we want to diversify the digital domain. We will use our capacity to advance justice and equity by involving students in a scholarly fashion and contributing to the public’s understanding by sometimes looking back at racial and social justice issues that still exist today.
University of Arizona's African American Women's Arch
University of Arizona’s African American Women’s Arch

We are focused on designing and providing this educational component to our community. We are a museum in the making, ready to move forward with exhibits, stories, and a heartfelt passion for learning and sharing. We are excited to share the History, presence, and contributions of African American’s in Southern Arizona and make it accessible to educate and inspire all. In collaboration with the various businesses, we will provide innovating and inspiring projects that support the human condition of African American people and their success and struggles throughout History.

Artwork by E. Elliot - 1955
Artwork by E. Elliot – 1955

Yes, we are a museum and one that is and will stay relevant. We will be incorporating some innovative educational pieces from lives long gone to holograms and digital artwork of today. We will educate and share the celebrations of holidays like Kwaanza and Juneteenth at the museum and uplift new celebrations and traditions like “The Crown Act.”  We will display various art forms and mediums from painters and artists who have passed like Robert Colescott to the patience and time to admire bronze work by local artists Quin Davis. We will meld the old with the new, the present with the past, and preserve what will be enjoyed later.

Bust of a Buffalo Soldier and Tuskegee Airman by Quin Davis.
Bust of a Buffalo Soldier and Tuskegee Airman by Quin Davis

Why a Museum, Why not?

We were told if we don’t do this now…then WHEN? And if not us then…who? If we don’t begin holding on to our History and documenting stories about African American People in this country and Southern Arizona, all the stories will be lost!

The African American Museum of Southern Arizona will represent the comprehensive experience of African Americans in Southern Arizona. “According to the Arizona Archives Matrix, the Latinx, Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community currently make up over 42% of Arizona’s population.” The sad statistic is that you will only find BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) represents only 2% of any historical or archival collection. (Author Nancy Liliana Godoy/Arizona State University)

The Tucson Rodeo

Let’s take, for instance, the Tucson Rodeo that has been around for over 95 years. There are sometimes Black cowboys, and this rodeo is known as La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros. During the Thursday and Friday of the rodeo, all schools in Tucson are closed, including the University of Arizona.

Most people don’t know that several states around the country have A Black Rodeo! Well, Arizona is no different! The Arizona Black Rodeo is a social and cultural event showcasing the heritage of the Black cowboy. African Americans and Blacks have been cowboys since the time they were enslaved. Blacks raced horses, rangled and branded animals, and enjoyed horseback riding. The Black rodeo is a true celebration of culture with art auctions, cowboy clothing, film reviews, and the spoken word. The now-deceased Ed Keeylocko built a western town, Cow Town Keeylock, outside of Tucson in Pima County, Arizona.

Black History Month

Whether we are celebrating African American Cowboys, Top Educators, Outstanding Athletes, Noted Inventors, Phenomenal Women, Heroes in the Military, or Buffalo Soldiers, African Americans have been involved in every aspect of American History.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson was a scholar whose dedication to celebrating the historical contributions of Black people led to the establishment of Negro History Week 1926. This week coincided with the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass, and later in 1976, President Gerald Ford changed the week to be an entire month which is now known as Black History Month. It is the month in which we know it was established to bring awareness and to honor the contributions, but we hope that people celebrate the contributions of African Americans and Blacks all year long.

The AAMSAZ stands for Integrity, Authenticity, Within a Global Community

#Celebratingourstories             #AAMSAZ

#AfricanAmericans                   #AZBlackrodeo

What can people do to help?

  1. If you live in this area, please email us and volunteer.
  2. Visit the website. – aamsaz.org.
  3. Join, become a member.
  4. Donate – so we’re sustainable, and we want to stay innovative and relevant by using digital and traditional collections. We are constantly gathering items and artifacts.