The Charles H Wright Museum of African American History

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. We provide learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs, and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins. The museum is located in Detroit, one of five major cities that were the “gateways to freedom” for tens of thousands of freedom seekers seeking refuge in Canada. The Detroit gateway has one of the richest and most compelling Underground Railroad histories, since it is separated from Canada by only the Detroit River. The Museum recognizes its unique position in preserving, promoting, and sharing the history of the Underground Railroad.

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History was founded in 1965 and has operated continuously for nearly 50 years. Dr. Charles H. Wright envisioned an institution to preserve African American history after visiting a Danish memorial to World War II heroes in Europe. He was convinced that America needed a similar resource to document, preserve, and educate all on African and African American history, life, and culture. Dr. Wright partnered with 30 other civic-minded Detroiters to establish the Museum. The Museum has evolved from three row houses in Detroit to the world’s largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. The Museum’s current location was opened in 1997.

Educational programs are an integral part of the Museum’s mission and can be accessed by the public through attendance at on-site programs and activities, as well as through strategic partnerships and collaborations at locations in the surrounding communities. The Museum has a growing online presence which engages distanced audiences. The Museum’s online modules include the African American History Teaching and Learning Modules website, the Living History website, and the Virtual Archives website.

In recent years, the Museum has secured grants to enhance its educational tours, reopen its archives and improve the management and care of its manuscript and photographic collection. In addition, the museum has renovated classrooms with updated technology. All of these new initiatives have enabled the Museum to make significant progress toward its goal of providing outreach-based learning opportunities.

Additionally, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History houses over 30,000 artifacts and archival materials and is home to the Blanche Coggan Underground Railroad Collection, Harriet Tubman Museum Collection, Coleman A. Young Collection and Sheffield Collection.


The Cooperative Underground Railroad Education Partnership Team Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Director: Robert L. Smith, Vice President of Education and Exhibitions

Archivist and Coordinator of UGRR Website: LaNesha Debardelaben, Director of Archives and Library (June 2011 – Present); Alexis Braun Marks, Archivist (November 2009 – September 2010)

UGRR Project Coordinator and Multimedia Producer: Jennifer Evans, Special Project Coordinator

Writers/Editors: Dr. James Dator, Lead Editor; Kamilah Stinnett, Assistant Editor

Researchers/Writers: Michelle McKinney, Librarian and Assistant Archivist; Patrina Chatman, Curator of Exhibitions; Margaret Royal, Researcher/Writer; Elizabeth Wulbrecht, Researcher/Writer; Kel Keller, Researcher/Writer; James Hixon, Researcher/Writer; Dana Prater, Researcher/Writer; Veronica Grandison, Researcher/Writer; Blair Proctor, Researcher/Writer; Austin McCoy, Researcher/Writer, Voices of the Civil War film Series; John Euseary, Researcher/Writer, Voices of the Civil War Film Series;
Elijah Kollin, Researcher/Writer, Voices of the Civil War Film Series; James Easley, Researcher/Writer, Voices of the Civil War Film Series; Kyera Singleton, Researcher/Writer, Voices of the Civil War Film Series; Akiva Gottlieb, Researcher/Writer, Voices of the Civil War Film Series

Coordinator of Image Researcher: Melissa Samson, Library Database Manager

Website Technology and Content Management System: Magian Media Studio – Gillian Chaplin and Les Gilbert; Geospatial Technology, Inc. – Dr. Edwin Joseph and Kendell Joseph

Education Lesson Plans Team of Master Teachers:
Kathy Hribar; Rita Lockridge; Abby Combs; Ray Walker; Mary Helen Diegel; Denise Knapp

Advisory Committee of Historians: Dr. Roy Finkenbine, Professor of History, University of Detroit-Mercy; Carol Mull, author of the Underground Railroad in Michigan; Dr. Veta Tucker, Emeritus Professor of History, Grand Valley State University

Evaluation: Dr. Daniel R. Kroupa, Director of Museum Studies, University of Detroit-Mercy

Special Thanks to: Dr. Martha Jones, Professor of History, University of Michigan; Dr. Genna Rae McNeil, Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill;
Historical Committee of Second Baptist Church, Detroit, Michigan; University of Michigan Arts in Citizenship Program; Dr. Karolyn Smardz Frost, author of I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land; Dr. Ronald Woods, Professor of African American Studies, Eastern Michigan University; David Hales, Director of Social Studies, Wayne Count Regional Educational Service Agency; James McConnell, Board Member, Michigan Council for History Education; Claire Cornell, URR Program Officer, United States Department of Education; Dr. Barbara K. Smith, Detroit Public Schools; Christina Streety-Napier, Descendant of William Lambert; Claudia Rae White, Descendant of Rev. Anthony Binga, Sr.; Irene Moore Davis, Descendant of James Llewellyn Dunn and Robert Dunn; Kenn Stanton, Descendant of Jefferson Lightfoot; Leslie Williams, Descendant of William Webb

“I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)

© 2012 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. All rights reserved. 315 East Warren Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201 | (313) 494-5800 |

This program was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural Program.