Keepers of the Culture

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What the museum means to us 



Areas of Bowling Green, Kentucky were once hubs of African American heritage, hosting culturally vibrant and bright communities such as Shake Rag and Jonesville. These communities have since been demolished or forgotten by the community. Where Jonesville used to exist, Western Kentucky University’s football stadium now towers. Several shops and businesses that thrived in Shake Rag have been contorted into new businesses or leveled completely, their historical value lost.

The African American Museum was created in 2006 to preserve the rich black culture and contributions that blossomed in these communities. After watching historic Shake Rag buildings and structures be redeveloped and reconstructed, a woman who grew up in Shake Rag, Wathetta Buford, decided to take her concerns to the City Commission. With support from Slim Nash, they were able to establish a museum in a building on Third Ave.

In search of broader horizons, the museum left Third Ave in 2014 and found a home in the Erskine House Building at WKU. Since then, the museum has grown its exhibits and artifacts, now featuring rooms designated to different portions of history. Exhibits showcase African American accomplishments at WKU as well as in the military. Exhibits exploring historic African American schools feature artifacts such as senior’s letterman's and newspaper clippings about the schools. Seamless incorporations of the accomplishments, contributions, and culture of African Americans in the early 20th century is what makes this museum worth the visit.