African American Museum and Library at Oakland

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is a museum and library dedicated to the preservation and sharing of historical and cultural experiences of African Americans in the West, particularly in California. The library is located in the Carnegie building, which housed the early headquarters of the Oakland Public Library.
Eugene Ruth Lasartemay and Jesse and Dr. Marcella Ford began collecting the oral histories of African Americans in Oakland and the Bay Area in 1946. In 1965, the organization officially became the East Bay Negro Historical Society. As the collection grew, it began operating as a museum in library. In 1982, the Society was invited to join the Golden Gate Branch of the Oakland Public Library, which became the first Oakland city library to house a predominantly African American focused collection. In 1988, the organization changed its name to the Northern California Center for Afro-American History & Life. In 1994, the City of Oakland collaborated with the NCCAAHL to create the African American Museum and Library at Oakland, a merging of private and public archives. The current branch of the Museum and Library opened in February 2002.
The museum’s reference library has over 12,000 books by African American authors and about African American history, culture, and more. The museum’s oral history collection includes interviews with civil rights activists, educators, writers, and musicians. The second-floor museum features travelling and original exhibitions which highlight the art, history, and culture of African Americans. The AAMLO also includes a seed lending library. The library website states: “Anyone is welcome to come in and check-out seeds. No library card is needed. We ask that you sign out for the seeds, then let some plants go to seed and return some of these next generation seeds for others to borrow.” These seeds offer the means to construct a “homeplace,” as theorized by bell hooks, “considering the primacy of domesticity as a site for subversion and resistance.” The transmission of oral histories is similar to the transmission of seeds: they can be shared and spread, and inspire new generations of stories. The purpose of these archives is not just to preserve the past, but to look towards the future.


AAMLO mural

AAMLO mural

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Street Address:

659 14th Street Oakland [map]

Official Website:

Cite this Page:

Emma Wilson, “African American Museum and Library at Oakland,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed October 16, 2018,
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