A Seed Bank and Textual Achieve

When considering the African American Museum & Library at Oakland (AAMLO), one is initially struck by its construction. With arched windows, a flat, beige roof, large stonewalls, and a classical design, the AAMLO is an impressive building. For many, a library represents a geographical location in which knowledge is contained and controlled. However, the AAMLO exceeds this definition. Instead, its historical and environmental offerings make the AAMLO a valuable resource for anyone in the Oakland community.

In 1994, the Northern California Center for Afro-American History & Life (NCCAAHL) and the City of Oakland partnered to form the African American Museum & Library at Oakland. The AAMLO officially opened in 2002. The AAMLO is an important resource to students, scholars, and historians as it contains an in-depth body of cultural resources. The AAMLO is committed to providing and sharing materials that depict African American history, culture, and literature. The library contains a substantial amount of primary sources and archival information. In fact, the AAMLO’s has “approximately 12,000 volumes by or about African Americans.” [1]

The AAMLO provides not only books but also seeds. [2] In 2013, the seed library was founded by AAMLO's director, Rick Moss, and a member of the community, named Aurora. [3] Although neither one of them had worked on a farm, they were interested in providing increased food accessibility to their community. Currently, Claudia Noble Levingston, owner of Cultivating Gardens, is in charge of organizing the seed collection. As a seed-lending library, the AAMLO allows anyone to take seeds. Individuals do not have to be members of the library. Instead, visitors just have to complete a sign out sheet. The AAMLO staff merely asks seed borrowers to “let some plants go to seed and return some of these next generation seeds for others to borrow.” [4] The majority of the seeds are for vegetables and herbs, many of which were donated by the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company in Petaluma. [5] While not all of the seeds are organic, they are all non-GMO. [6]

Also, the AAMLO performs an important role in the Oakland community as it hosts cultural and educational events. For example, on April 18th, 2015 the AAMLO provided a community event, entitled “Seed Swap and Gardening Celebration.” This event encouraged participants of all ages come to obtain and share seeds. The event also offered recipes for making healthy food and provided several strategies for gardening (indoors and outdoors) more effectively.

As such, the AAMLO is a valuable resource to the general public, especially low-income individuals, because it offers seeds to anyone at no cost. In that way, the AAMLO encourages the public to share and preserve seeds. The AAMLO, then, is a perfect example of a seed library that is featured in Oakland.

Cite this Page:

Zenzele Olatunji, “The AAMLO,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed October 16, 2018,
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