MILWAUKEE — America's Black Holocaust Museum is getting closer to opening. It will be in the same spot the museum stood for almost 20 years, before funds ran out and they were forced to shut the doors in 2006.
"Little did we know it was going to take 11 years for us to finally realize our dream," said Virgil Cameron.
Virgil Cameron's late father founded America's Black Holocaust Museum. He has been working to bring it back ever since it closed.
"We finally have reached a point where we're finally going to get this thing open again," said Cameron.
Photo courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society
His father, Dr. James Cameron, said he was the only known lynching survivor. There is a picture in the museum that shows the night he could have been killed.
"I realize my dad was supposed to be the one in the middle," said Cameron.
The museum offers online exhibits, but Cameron wants people to experience more.
"Dad had that passion about this story being told, and we have to carry it forward," said Cameron.
Ralph Hollmon is on the museum's board. He hopes people from all backgrounds and different ages will plan a visit.
"We wanted it to be at a level where middle school, young people could understand it," said Hollmon.
Some exhibits will call for celebration, but many will be difficult to take in.
"You can see how Africans were just packed into the slave ships," said Hollmon.
The museum was slated to open last fall.
"If anyone has ever been involved in a construction project, you know that things sometimes don't happen in as quick a manner as you really like," said Hollmon.
Hollmon blamed contractors' schedules and funding.
"We're not quite where we want to be," said Hollmon.
"If anyone has ever been involved in a construction project, you know that things sometimes don't happen in as quick a manner as you really like." — Ralph Hollmon, museum board member
They are getting closer with help from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. He pledged to match donations for the museum up to $100,000 from his own pocket.
"This is an important part of our history. Fewer and fewer people sometimes have the opportunity to learn all of their history, but we are always a more empowered society when we know all of the details of our history, and this is a crucial chapter," said Abele.
The community has pledged about $89,000 since Abele announced his challenge. He will match donations through Monday, what would have been Dr. Cameron's 105th birthday.
"He would have been elated," said Abele.
Cameron thinks the updated space could change people's perspectives.
"Hopefully we'll be here for years and years to come," said Cameron.
The museum was rumored to open in the spring, but organizers don't want to commit to a date. They hope to have the museum open as soon as possible.
If donors step up and give a total $100,000 by next week plus the $100,000 from Abele, museum organizers said they'll have about $40,000 more to raise.