African American Museum and Library at Oakland

central panel of “A Journey of Promise” mural

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) is housed in a magnificent building that was once the Oakland main library, a Carnegie library that opened in 1902. But AAMLO had much more modest beginnings.

In 1946, Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay and Jesse and Dr. Marcella Ford began collecting the oral histories and artifacts that documented the activities of African Americans in and around Oakland, the Bay Area and California. They formed the East Bay Negro Historical Society in 1965. After combining with other collections and moving several times, the collection ultimately became AAMLO in 1994. AAMLO was housed in the Golden Gate library, and following the retrofit of this building, moved here in 2002.

In addition to a reference library and storehouse of collections (including the Oakland Post archives), AAMLO is also a museum. The upstairs has a number of permanent exhibits, and also features (during non-COVID times) a variety of different displays and events.

If the library is open be sure to go in and check out the museum, and don’t miss the “A Journey of Promise” mural that wraps around the walls of the stairway. It features numerous people mentioned on the Black History tour like Delilah Beasley and C.L. Dellums, but also faces you may not recognize like California Supreme Court justice Alan Broussard, and whaling captain William Shorey, who lived in West Oakland with his family until he died during the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

This stop is part of these tours: