Nikee Museum Store Holiday Sales


Visit the Nikee Museum Store December 3 through January 4 for special weekly savings!

Week of December 3

10% Off All Books, T-Shirts, & Mugs

Week of December 10

20% Off All Cards, Stationary, & Ornaments

Week of December 17

25% Off All Batik & Jewelry

December 26-28

25% Off All Figurines, Wall Art, & Candle Holders

January 2-4

20% Off All Soapstone, Baskets, & African Masks


Offers may not be combined with any other sale, promotion, discount, code, coupon and/or offer. Promotions have no cash value. Offer cannot be sold or otherwise bartered.

Z 102.9 Community Spotlight

Earlier this month Communications Associate Jennifer Beall did a Community Spotlight interview with Z 102.9’s Eric Hanson. Listen below to learn about our upcoming October events! This interview originally aired on Sunday, September 22.

Get to Know Dr. Simon Estes

Dr. Simon Estes will be the Lifetime Achievement Honoree at our annual History Makers Gala on October 3. Get your tickets today to be part of this special event.

Born in Centerville, Iowa, in 1932, Dr. Simon Estes first singing experience came at age eight when he performed with the choir in Centerville’s Second Baptist Church. From those humble roots, Dr. Estes would become one of his generation’s greatest bass-baritones.

After enrolling at the University of Iowa in the late 1950s as a pre-med and psychology major, Dr. Estes became the first African American member of the university’s Old Gold Singers. His voice caught the attention of Iowa music faculty member Charles Kellis, Estes’ first and only vocal teacher.

Dr. Estes won the Bronze Medal in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky competition in 1966 and it signaled the launch of his international career. He would go on to build a global reputation and win numerous awards and accolades while performing with 84 of the major international opera companies as well as 115 orchestras around the world. He also advocated for more opportunities in opera for African-American performers.

Even as Estes achieved stardom on stage, he helped others in Iowa and elsewhere through many philanthropic efforts. He has also inspired new generations as a teacher at music schools around the world including Wartburg College, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and Des Moines Area Community College, all in Iowa.

Learn more about Dr. Estes work on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Meet the 2019 History Makers


Lorinda L. Ampey is a vital leader in the community as the Director of Programming and Outreach at the Boys & Girls Club. She is living her dream working with youth and upholding the promise she made to herself after a very traumatic school experience. Lorinda’s promise was that if she ever had the opportunity to work with youth, she would never treat them differently because of the color of their skin. She has kept that promise throughout her career. Lorinda began her work with youth at the Jane Boyd Community House where she spent eight years learning how to successfully plan and implement youth programming with the help of Suzy Beshears. In 1998, after the tragic loss of her daughter, Briahnna, she took a hiatus from youth work until 1999 when she started her career again at the Boys & Girls Club.

Lorinda is a member of The Professional Association of Boys & Girls Clubs and has continued to educate herself throughout her career. She has received many accolades for her endless work in the community including the Viola Davis Yes I Can Award, the NAACP Outstanding Community Service Award, the Iowa Association for Colored Women Award, and the Arc of East Central Iowa Community Inclusion Award. However, if you ask Lorinda, she has received no greater accolade than the one she receives when a mentee goes on to be successful. She defines success, not by what you have, but by who you have become.


Marie Christian has over twenty years of experience as an educator, career counselor, consultant, and Prevention Professional. Her positions have included serving as In-Touch Coordinator for the Rock Island County Council on Addictions and Assessment Specialist for the Scott Community College Career Assistance Center. She has served as Project Director for federally-funded substance abuse prevention grants, CSAP and as an instructor for local colleges in communication, diversity/multicultural relations and other business subjects. Certified Surrogate Parent for Illinois Children. Marie is a recipient of several statewide Master Teacher Awards, as well as the American Association of University Women’s Scholarship. She has served on the Board of Directors for Girl Scouts and the Youth Service Bureau and is a member of several community governing boards, the Davenport Schools Curriculum and Development Planning Board, and the NAACP 2nd V.P. and Educational Co-Chair.


Dr. Raynard S. Kington has served as President of Grinnell College since 2010. Prior to Grinnell, he held multiple positions at the National Institutes of Health including Principal Deputy Director and Acting Director. Prior to NIH, he was a division director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a Senior Scientist at RAND. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, where he serves on the Governing Council. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education. He attended the University of Michigan, where he received his B.S. with distinction and his M.D. He received his M.B.A. with distinction and his Ph.D. with a concentration in Health Policy and Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His research has focused on social determinants of health and more recently on diversity in the scientific workforce.



Registered Nurse, Bridget Saffold, is employed in an internal medicine clinic that treats kidney and diabetic patients. She serves as the coordinator of the Cedar Valley and Cedar Rapids Focus on Diabetes, a grassroots diabetes initiative endorsed by the State of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, that partners with accredited doctors and world-class healthcare organizations to share the latest research, treatment options and free screenings with diabetic patients, their families, and the community.
Additionally, Bridget serves as the diabetes adviser for a 6.5 million-member, faith-based organization offering education and coordination support for their state, regional, and national conferences.

In June, she truly made history when she hosted a party for Presidential Candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren. That event marked the first time in history that a high-profile presidential candidate campaigned at someone’s home on the east side of Waterloo. During this event, Bridget shared her personal story and advocated for healthcare reform.



Read on to learn more about Dr. Simon Estes, 2019 Lifetime Achievement honoree!



Brianna Kim Celebrates Six Years at the AAMI

Brianna Kim photo

Brianna Kim, Director of Operations

Interactive section of Products of a Creative Mind, 2015-2016 temporary exhibit

This month we’re celebrating Brianna Kim’s sixth year as a member of the AAMI staff! Brianna joined the Museum’s team as a curator in August 2013. In that role, she curated three of our past exhibits: Behind the BeatProducts of a Creative Mind,  and Mightier than the Sword. Not only did she plan and research these exhibits, but she also developed interactives, oversaw design, and wrote the copy for panels and labels.

In February 2017, Brianna became the Museum’s Director of Operations. In this position, Brianna has been responsible for overseeing and improving the administrative and operational aspects of the organization, from creating new on boarding practices for employees and volunteers, to managing the annual audit process. Brianna is also well known to many of the Museum’s volunteers, as she manages the volunteer recruitment and orientation programs.

Originally from the town of Albia in Iowa’s Monroe County, Brianna attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, where she obtained a BA in History, and completed her MA in Museum Studies at George Washington University in Washington, DC. She lives with her husband Arthur Kim, seven-month-old daughter Edith, and Moses, a one-year-old lab mix.

Please join us in congratulating Brianna on all of her excellent work making sure that the AAMI can continue to be a quality resource for learning about Iowa’s African American heritage!


AAMI Acquires New Artwork

Collections Corner: The Topsy-Turvy Doll

This article by Curator Felicite Wolfe was originally published in the Summer 2017 edition of the Iowa Griot, the AAMI’s member publication.

A unique piece of folk art with an uncertain past, the Topsy-Turvy doll has become subject to debate and controversy among historians. In its simplest form, the doll has two heads with their upper bodies on opposite ends, joined together at the hips. A long skirt flips to conceal one face or the other. It is two dolls, but only one can be played with at a time. Traditionally, Topsy-Turvy dolls are made of cloth with one side representing a white girl and the other a black girl. Often, the white doll is more detailed while the black doll wears a dress void of adornment or the apron and headscarf of a “mammy” figure. Many historians agree that the doll originated in the antebellum period of the American South and were handmade by enslaved women. But who played with the dolls and why?

Topsy-Turvy Doll, c. 1957. Collection of the African American Museum of Iowa, Gift of Rogette Steele.

There are many interpretations that have evolved regarding the meaning and use of these dolls. Debra Britt, one of the founders of the National Black Doll Museum, believes that the dolls enabled enslaved children to have something forbidden—a doll that looked like them. When the slave master was present, the child could easily switch the doll to the white girl side.

African American Studies scholar Dr. Kimberly Wallace-Sanders admonishes this theory, believing that enslaved mothers wouldn’t jeopardize their children in that manner. She theorizes that the doll may have been a socialization tool for both enslaved black girls and white masters’ daughters. The doll could have been a means for the young girls to understand their role in society and as women. Black girls may have desired a white doll, possibly like the children their mother looked after. White girls may have viewed the black figure as a “Mammy” or maid of the house. In Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory, Dr. Wallace-Sanders states “African American slave women may have given dolls like these to their daughters as a preparation for a possibility of a life devoted to nurturing two babies: one black and one white. Topsy-turvy dolls are designed for children to play with one baby at a time, and this accurately reflects the division of caregiving that African American women encountered, having to care for white children during the day and their own children at night.”

Dr. Wallace-Sanders’ theory is supported by several others. Author and game designer Bernie De Koven states that toys are typically instructional and connected with learning about people. The doll therefore probably mimicked the dynamics within the household. In historian Dorothy A. Mays’ book Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival and Freedom in a New World, she notes that “slave girls were often paired with the similarly aged daughters of their owner to be companion and servant.

By the late 19th century, Topsy-Turvy dolls were being mass produced, some with lithographed or hand-painted faces. Topsy and Eva double headed dolls, based on characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom ’s Cabin were popular in the 1940s. Sewing patterns were produced by Vogart and Redlines with the name “Topsy and Eva Doll.” In a McCalls pattern, both dolls were white and called the “Upside Down Doll.”

In contemporary times, the Topsy-Turvy doll continues to spark discussion and debate and has come to be viewed as a symbol of conflict, power struggle, segregation, gender roles, and racial and cultural tensions.



Bernstein, Robin. 2011. Racial innocence: performing American childhood from slavery to civil rights. New York: New York University Press.

Hindman, Leslie. “Rag doll is a double delight. (retrieved 3-22-2017).

Jarboe, K. Tait.  “The Racial Symbolism of the Topsy-Turvy Doll” .(retrieved 2/8/2017).

Wade, Lisa. “Theories of the First Topsy-Turvy Doll”. https: www. (retrieved 3-22-2017).

AAMI To Participate in Blue Star Museums

This summer, the African American Museum of Iowa announces it will join museums nationwide in participating in the tenth summer of Blue Star Museums, a program which provides free admission to our nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families. The 2019 program will begin earlier than in past years, launching on Saturday, May 18, 2019, Armed Forces Day, and ending on Monday, September 2, 2019, Labor Day. Military can find the list of participating museums at Blue Star Museums is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in collaboration with Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums nationwide.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to celebrate the tenth summer of collaborating with Blue Star Families, Department of Defense, and especially the more than 2,000 museums across our nation that make this program possible,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Organizations such as the African American Museum of Iowa are providing wonderful opportunities for military families to share a memorable experience together this summer.”

This year’s participating organizations include fine art, science, history, and children’s museums, as well as zoos, aquariums, gardens, and more. Museums are welcome to sign up for Blue Star Museums throughout the summer at

“We’ve seen the tremendous impact the Blue Star Museums program brings to our military families, and we’re thrilled to be celebrating a decade of support,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, chief executive officer of Blue Star Families. “Not only are museums fun to explore but are also great for making memories and strengthening military families as a whole.”

“The Defense Department congratulates Blue Star Families and the National Endowment for the Arts on reaching an incredible milestone: ten years of service to the military community though Blue Star Museums,” said A.T. Johnston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy. “We offer our sincere gratitude to the more than 2,000 museums across the country who open their doors through this wonderful program. Your patriotism and generosity have enriched the lives and experiences of our military families.”

The free admission program is available for those currently serving in the United States Military—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard as well as members of the Reserves, National Guard, U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps, and up to five family members. Qualified members must show a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card for entrance into a participating Blue Star Museum.

Follow Blue Star Museums on Twitter @NEAarts and @BlueStarFamily, #bluestarmuseums.


About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more.

About Blue Star Families

Blue Star Families builds communities that support military families by connecting research and data to programs and solutions, including career development tools, local community events for families, and caregiver support. Since its inception in 2009, Blue Star Families has engaged tens of thousands of volunteers and serves more than 1.5 million military family members. With Blue Star Families, military families can find answers to their challenges anywhere they are. For more information, visit


Visit our Press Room to download a PDF copy of the press release.

Juneteenth Entertainment Announcement

The AAMI is excited to announce the main stage entertainment for our 2019 Juneteenth celebration. Our largest free event, this annual program will be held at Viola Gibson Park in Cedar Rapids on June 15 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. In addition to the main stage performers, attendees will be able to enjoy local food and retail vendors and family-friendly activities. Juneteenth is an annual, nation-wide celebration of the freeing of the last slaves in the United States on June 19, 1865, when news of the Emancipation Proclamation at last reached Confederate Galveston, Texas.

Main stage entertainment for the AAMI celebration will include:

  • CBS2/FOX28 reporter Kayla James as the event MC
  • DJ Tone Da Boss returning to provide musical entertainment
  • Published poet and Washington High School student Diamond Roundtree performing a spoken word piece
  • Zette St. Charles with a reading of Myrlie Evers-Williams’ speech from Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration
  • Music from the Veritas Church choir
  • A performance from the Washington High School Step Team
  • TC Boyd with a spoken word performance
  • Solo music performance by Ruby Melendez

Other activities will include past Juneteenth entertainer TJ the Clown returning to create balloon art, artist Donald Hunt creating an interactive work of art that will ask attendees what Juneteenth means to them, face painting by Nicolette Wordburn, games and crafts for kids, and an opportunity to interact with Cedar Rapids firefighters. Sponsors for the event will include Alliant Energy, Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, FRIENDS of Iowa of Civil Rights, and U.S. Bank Foundation. More information about the event and additional performers and sponsors will be added to our Juneteenth page as we approach the event. Check out our press room for a press release and press kit.

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Special One-Day Exhibit May 21