Happy International Jazz Day!

April 30th is International Jazz Day! To celebrate, we’re sharing this content from our 2014 temporary exhibit Behind the Beat featuring a few of Iowa’s jazz legends. Is your favorite on the list?

Who Was Maya Angelou – A Virtual Story Time

In place of our planned April Who Was program, we have created this virtual story time that you can watch at home! Listen to Ava Challenger read Who Was Maya Angelou?, explore one of Angelou’s famous poems, and follow along with a guide to make your own poetry collage at home!

A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your continued encouragement and support of the African American Museum of Iowa in the midst of such uncertainty surrounding us all. Like so many organizations and businesses nationwide, the Museum closed its doors to the public and made the decision to cancel or postpone all planned programs, tours, events and rentals through the end of April. We have been relying on social media to regularly bring our resources to you. If you haven’t already done so, consider visiting the new digital tour of our exhibit Endless Possibilities, which includes highlights of items and links to 360°views of select areas, joining our Facebook community group, and following us on social media to keep up with our happenings.

The Museum team certainly misses engaging with you as much as you are missing your routine of getting out and about. We particularly miss what makes this time of year so much fun: leading student tours, giving presentations, meeting out-of-towners, and introducing visitors to our cool store inventory. While closing has been in the best interest of our patrons, staff, and volunteers, the Museum’s operations have taken a hit. We expect a loss of approximately $1,250 of earned revenue for every week we remain closed. From event rentals in our two venues (Celebration Hall and AEGON Learning Lab) and store merchandise to group tours and presentations, the Museum is facing challenges to our daily operations that could have long-term impact. Extended closure will indeed present increased challenges and some unknowns as it relates to anticipated grant funding, donor contributions, and sponsors who all may grapple with their traditional levels of support.

As we enter into a “new normal,” the AAMI is forging ahead with opportunities to bring our members and patrons digital or virtual programming. Stay tuned for more information on our Who Was storytelling series, a viewing party of Netflix’s Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker, and other programs we plan to bring you over the coming weeks. You’ll be happy to know we are moving ahead with our planned Juneteenth celebration, scheduled for Saturday, June 20th at NewBo City Market from 11 AM – 4 PM. You will also be excited that we have announced our 2020 History Makers Gala, which will return to The Hotel at Kirkwood Center on Thursday, September 24th from 5 PM – 8 PM. Honorees this year include trailblazers Dr. Sharon Collins (Cedar Rapids), Judge Odell McGhee (Des Moines), Fred Mims (Iowa City) and Okpara Rice (Marion).


Your engagement, membership and/or contribution will go a long way toward keeping our operations on track and allowing us to increase our digital resources during this mass shutdown to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Please consider ways in which you can help sustain the Museum’s programming, exhibit development, and vast educational resources as you go about maintaining your own sense of normalcy over the coming months.

On behalf of our team and board, be well.


LaNisha Cassell
Executive Director