Few cities in America can rival Atlantic City’s rich African American heritage. Ralph E. Hunter, Sr. aims to perpetuate that legacy as the founder/president of the African American Heritage Museum.
“African American history is important not because its African American history, but because it’s American history. If we don’t understand what took place in our history, we don’t know what direction to go.”
The museum in the Noyes Art Garage chronicles that history from 1863 until today.
“After the mass migration from the South and the islands, Atlantic City’s African Americans helped to build this town. But there were businessmen, merchants, ministers, lawyers, and doctors, too. They all contributed to a vibrant scene on the Northside.”
However, many in the succeeding generations of these pioneering families went off to jobs or college, never to return on a permanent basis. This created a gap in cultural knowledge.
“All we’re trying to do at the museum is bring kids in from the surrounding counties to look, see, and almost smell and touch, the history of African Americans.
We’re searching for youngsters to work throughout the summer and to be part of what takes place here.
“If I can teach them to become a docent, how to smile and address a person they’ve never seen before, and welcome them to Atlantic City and the Arts Garage, I think I’ve done my job.”
Sharing the history of African Americans is a history lesson not lost on Ralph Hunter.
-John “Yonk” Rosnick