Olivia Littles Erickson
The Colman Elementary School was built in 1910 to serve the families of Seattle’s Central District. Discriminatory housing patterns made the neighborhood population and the school’s student body the most racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse in the city: African Americans from the eastern and southern U.S.; immigrants from Asia; Jews and Catholics from eastern Europe. Following the forced removal of Japanese Americans and the influx of African Americans seeking work during World War II, the Central District became a predominantly Black neighborhood that regarded the school as its own. Closure of the school and attempts to demolish the building were met with fierce community resistance, including its eight-year-long occupation by activists seeking to establish an African American museum and cultural center within its walls. After over two decades of struggle, the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) opened in the Colman School building, securing its future as a Black community institution.
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
Visual Arts, Heritage, Multidisciplinary
Hannibal, Tyrah, "Beyond the NAAM: The Melting Pot Legacy of the Colman School’s Transformation into the Northwest African American Museum" (2020). Northwest African American Museum. 2.