The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey (AAHMSNJ) sprang from the passion of its founder, Ralph E. Hunter, Sr. After retiring from a long career in retail, Ralph began collecting cultural treasures that he stumbled on while traveling or just by being an astute observer of his surroundings. That’s a fancy way of saying he found some of his “treasures” on the curb on trash day.
Ralph’s apartment was affectionately referred to by his friends as “The Museum.” In 2002, his museum became a reality when he was offered a space by the mayor of Buena Vista Township. This allowed him to show off his treasures, put to use his talent for display, and share stories about the meaning behind the artifacts he collected — the first of which was a copy of “Little Black Sambo” by Helen Bannerman. Hunter had painful memories of that book growing up and bought it to take it off the market. That same book is now the centerpiece of a vast collection of paintings, ceramics and advertising and branding memorabilia that portrays African Americans in both a flattering and unflattering way. They may make some uncomfortable, but they also serve to start the larger conversation about the true African American experience.
The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, Inc. is celebrating 15 years of highlighting the accomplishments and impact of African Americans in South Jersey and around the country. AAHMSNJ is a 501(c)3 non-profit with exhibit locations in Atlantic City and Newtonville, New Jersey. For more information about the exhibition, visit AAHMSNJ.org or call 609.350.6662.
Atlantic City Museum Hours:
Wednesday-Saturday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Admission is FREE. Donations are encouraged.
“I don’t believe in disability. I’m different. Not disabled.”
Artist Studio Tour from ArtandSpeak
Desmond Blair is not your usual speaker, teacher and passionate artist; he is a problem solver and has been since childhood. Blair had to learn how to write since he was born without fingers. He tried writing with his feet, his mouth and soon discovered he could use both hands to accomplish this insurmountable task.
He was the only one in school, only one in church, and the only one in the neighborhood with a limb difference. Blair became unstoppable because THIS was not going to define him; he was going to do everything everybody else could do. Due to his tenacity, determination, and staying focused; he went from crayons to paint brushes and from drawing stick figures to portraits while graduating from high school at the age of 16 years old.
Blair’s story has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Jet Magazine, NBC 5 Midday, Dallas Morning News, CW33, and other various media outlets. Desmond is a true force of nature with his compelling message on how to be the master of the soul with divine passion. He is a transformer that will change your life once you hear his riveting and compelling story of life lessons that can be immediately applied.
Blair earned his degree from University of Texas at Dallas where he honed his traditional abilities and transferred them to digital media. He later returned to UTD where he received his Masters of Fine Arts in Art and Technology with a focus on the development of computer graphics and the study/analysis of emerging media trends. After graduation he found himself teaching at UTD and is now working for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in the Information Technology Department.
Back From Mother Africa
February 1 - September 1, 2018
The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, Inc. (AAHMSNJ) received a donation of art prints and Shona Stone figures that will be featured in the newest exhibit “Back from Africa.” The generous gift came from benefactors Faye and Joseph Young of Spring City, Pennsylvania.
Shona stone comes from the serpentine rock formations that run through the heart of Zimbabwe. The donated sculptures are examples of the cultural art of Zimbabwe and surrounding regions. They will be on display from February 1st to June 30th.
The idea for a show of African was conceived when Museum founder, Ralph E. Hunter, Sr. returned from a trip to Africa with several pieces of indigenous art and a trove of stories about the people he met and places he visited. Although he has shared photographs of that journey previously, Hunter describes the act of curating the current exhibit as a labor of love. He has included several pieces from his personal collection along with artwork donated by Mr. and Mrs. Young.
The show also features colorful paintings and prints, decorated ceremonial masks, intricately carved and inlaid objects from the collections of Stanley Robinson, Elwood G. Davis, and the estate of Fred Bacon, and African jewelry donated by Bettie J. Reina and Anita Millar.
Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America
May 1 - August 31, 2017
Opening Reception: Second Friday, May 12, 5 - 8 pm
Jackie Robinson’s rise from poverty to the highest ranks of the sports world is explored in the current exhibit Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America. The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey will host a Second Friday reception on May 12th from 5 PM to 8 PM in the Museum at the Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University, 2200 Fairmount Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The exhibit will be on display from May 1st to August 31, 2017.
Now regarded as a national treasure, Robinson rose above the racial antipathy that greeted his entry to the Major Leagues in 1947. He faced racist slurs from jeering fans, opposing teams, and some of his own teammates with courage and grace forging a path for the African American athletes who followed him into the arena of professional sports.
Robinson attended UCLA, served his country as an Army lieutenant, and played in the Negro leagues before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. The Museum’s collection includes Robinson’s glove and bat, and his Negro League and Brooklyn Dodgers uniforms among the artifacts on display. The exhibit also features a video describing the life of the baseball hero and his family, and the signing of his first contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ General Manager, Branch Rickey.
This exhibition of Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America was made possible by a generous grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, Inc. is a nonprofit organization located in Atlantic City. Admission is free but donations are encouraged.
Womens' History Month Exhibition: Five South Jersey Artists
March 1 - April 30, 2017
Opening Reception: Second Friday, March 10, 5 - 8 pm
Artists’ Hazel Levy, Tamu King and Najee Watson, as well as the family of Edythe Green will be on hand to talk about the art, its influence and impact.
The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, Inc. will celebrate Women’s History Month with an exhibition showcasing the work of five South Jersey artists. The work of Hazel Levy, Edythe Greene, Tamu King, Soundra Usry-Hollingsworth and Najee Watson will be on view from March 1 to 31 at the AAHMSNJ at The Arts Garage in Atlantic City. This ambitious showing spans generations and includes three highly respected Atlantic City natives and two mainland artists.
The posthumous display of paintings by Edythe Greene and Soundra Usry-Hollingsworth is a nod to an earlier generation. Both women were well known for their roles in Atlantic City’s African American community. The paintings of Hazel Levy, another long-time resident of Atlantic City, are expressive portraits, landscapes, and still life arrangements being shown publicly for the first time. These women shared a passion for art that was deferred for lives spent in service to community and family.
The exhibition also includes the paintings of Tamu King, a Cumberland County artist who describes her abstracts and landscapes as healing therapy. The lone male in the exhibit, Najee Watson, whose artwork is pictured above, approached his vision of the women featured in his photographs as a balance between nature and emotion rendered with the intent to generate aesthetic pleasure.
As Ralph Hunter, President and founder of the AAHMSNJ, explains, “The exhibition’s common thread is that the artists were compelled to indulge their creative passion. This exhibition exposes the result of their efforts to calm, heal, or inspire through their art."
Black Cowboys & Buffalo Soldiers
February 1 - April 30, 2017
Opening Reception: Second Friday, February 10, 5:00 to 8:00pm
The story of black cowboys and soldiers who have been absent from most historic accounts of the West.
The tale of the American cowboy has captivated historians, fascinated little boys and girls, and driven the plots of western novels and movies since the time of the Civil War, but the role that black cowboys, soldiers and pioneers played in opening the American frontier has been largely ignored. "Black Cowboys & Buffalo Soldiers," on display from February 1 to April 30 at the AAHMSNJ in Atlantic City, tells the story of the black cowboys and soldiers who have been absent from most historic accounts of the West. It focuses on the vital role that these African Americans played in America’s westward expansion and the success of the cattle industry.
Exhibition Curator Kimball Baker has written documentaries and features for the Voice of America, and is a former writer and editor for the U. S. Department of Labor. His works have been published in Readings in American History, 200 Years of American Worklife, Smithsonian, Ebony, Aviation Quarterly and a variety of publications.
Jet, Black, Brown and Tan: The Legacy of John H. Johnson
October 1, 2016 - December 31, 2017
Opening Reception: Second Friday, October 14, 5 - 8 pm
John H. Johnson rose from humble beginnings to become an inﬂuential social and political personality. His company, Johnson Publishing, was launched with a $500 loan from his mother who used her furniture as collateral. His ﬁrst magazine, Negro Digest, was published n 1942. It was followed by Ebony Magazine in 1945, Tan Confessions in 1950, JET magazine in 1951, Hue, and Copper Romance in 1953, Ebony Man in 1985, Ebony South Africa in 1995, and later publications, African American Stars and Ebony Jr.
Johnson consulted with American presidents Nixon, Kennedy and Johnson and numerous political leaders. His example has paved the way for magazines such as Black Enterprise and Essence and inﬂuenced African Americans in every walk of life. His publishing empire provided opportunities for a generation of black professionals and workers at every level, yet it remained a family centered business. Johnson died in 2005 at 87 years of age.
A Time For Change: Civil Rights In South Jersey
February 1 - May 31, 2017
Explore South Jersey’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, from local desegregation and anti-discrimination movements, to iconic national events such as the 1964 Democratic National Convention protests in Atlantic City. A Time for Change: Civil Rights in South Jersey highlights these events and more.
From South Jerseyans’ pilgrimage to the historic March on Washington in 1963 to Freedom Summer’s arrival on the Boardwalk in the summer of 1964. From the first Miss Black America pageant in 1968, to the origins of Martin Luther King Day that same year. From local desegregation efforts to the Camden riots.