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A valuable showcase for African American history is getting an upgrade, and new digs
If you’re planning a trip to Louisiana this year, there’s a special gem that you won’t want to miss as you make your way through the Pelican State. Known as the Northeast Louisiana Delta African American Heritage Museum, the destination opened its doors in 1994 and has been preserving and promoting African American heritage ever since.
The museum is part of The Louisiana African American Heritage Trail, which begins in New Orleans, spans through south and central Louisiana, and ends in northern Louisiana. The museum holds the honor of being the only stop in Ouachita Parish that is part of the trail, which highlights sites of cultural and historical importance for the state’s African Americans.
According to Lorraine Slacks, museum director, the 6-room facility covers a lot of ground for it small size, providing tours, seminars and research for visitors, residents and college students. Current exhibits feature the African American pioneers who helped to settle Monroe and the displays that show the affect African Americans had on the community at large.
Life-sized figures of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, cosmetics millionaire Madame C.J. Walker, and noted educator Mary McLeod Bethune greet visitors as they walk into the museum’s front door. Artworks by Don Cincone, Bernard Menyweather, and Agnes Hicks are on display in the building, which “disseminates and interprets information about the lifestyles, value and rich heritage of African Americans to the community,” says Slacks. “We are working hard to make the museum a repository and permanent home for some very important pieces of African American culture.”
In 2011, that goal will become even more attainable for the museum’s board of directors, who are anxiously anticipating a new facility and upgrade for an important piece of African American history. A local contractor is currently heading up the $2.6 million project, which is being funded in part by a state grant, with an additional $500,000 from the Monroe Convention and Business Bureau.
When completed by April 2011, the museum’s new digs will comprise a 14,000-square-foot, single-story building with ample room for traveling exhibits, interactive displays, research and education. Also on site will be a cafÃ© that will serve authentic African American cuisine. “We are really looking forward to having a nice, large space to work in,” says Slacks, who is enthused by the progress so far. “Our contractor is right on schedule.”
In the meantime, Slacks says the original museum will remain open for business and ready to serve the community and visitors from across the nation. “Through the museum, we are able to enlighten the community by means of education, displays and information that tell about African American history,” states Slacks, “and how the 15 parishes in Northeastern Louisiana were built [around] that history.”
While the Northeast Louisiana Delta African American Heritage Museum awaits the completion of its new location, the facility will be open to the public Tuesday — Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and on Sundays by appointment. Admission is $2 per person.