Community

A Louisville native is looking for community support to open a black history museum downtown.

It would be called the Roots 101 African American Museum. Executive Director Lamont Collins says he first got the idea to open a museum after hearing an NPR story about a collector named Oran Z who was looking to find a new home for millions of black history items. Collins reached out to Oran and got some of those items. He wants to put them, as well as other artifacts — some donated and some from his collection — on display in a space next to the Frazier Museum on Main Street.

Sports Displays for the planned Roots 101 MuseumKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Sports displays for the planned Roots 101 Museum.

Collins already has the space. One floor of the building is set up with displays of artifacts — everything from bronze African statues and historical pictures of black families to Ku Klux Klan memorabilia and racist caricatures of African Americans in popular media and commercial products.

Caricatures and Displays for the planned Roots 101 MuseumKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Caricatures and displays for the planned Roots 101 Museum

But Collins’ ultimate vision is a little grander and more elaborate, including a reconstructed slave ship in the basement and touch-activated displays to recreate the experience of slavery. He said the museum is important because it would educate the community and empower black youth who are not taught African history.

“What would that mindset be if more kids woke up in the morning, looked in the mirror and saw their self as descendants of kings and queens than as slaves?” Collins said. “So, that’s what this museum is about.”

Bronze statue and displays at the planned Roots 101 MuseumKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Bronze statue and displays at the planned Roots 101 Museum

Collins has started fundraising for the project, raising more than $8,000 from public donations on a GoFundMe page. But he said he needs $65,000 to open the museum, and he hopes to have the funds by the end of this month. He said he is also applying for grants to help fund the project.

Collins’ goal is to open the museum to the public by February.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.