Document Type

Case Study

Publication Date



Brian Carter; Leilani Lewis


Susan Kunimatsu


The Northwest African American Museum opened in March, 2008, but had been in the works since 1985. During that time, community members, historians, and activists sometimes cooperated, sometimes argued over the best way to create an African American cultural center that could meet the needs of Seattle’s black community. Over the next twenty years, hardships, betrayals, and compromises would divide the African American community. When class, politics, economics, and racism must be reckoned with in building a new institution, change is the only constant and compromise the only solution. In the end, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, the Black Heritage Society of Washington, the City of Seattle, business leaders and community activists collaborated and compromised to make the museum a reality. Today it is a cultural touchstone for Seattle’s African American community; a beacon of hope among a people who felt hopeless.

Organization or Event

Northwest African American Museum; African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center

Form of Entity


Area of Activity

Presenter, Community Development, Services for Artists, Social Justice, Facility/Venue

Artistic Discipline

Visual Arts, Heritage, Multidisciplinary

Previous Versions

Jun 4 2020 (withdrawn)