The River Road African-American Museum is a museum created to highlight the history and contributions of African-Americans that lived and worked in plantations along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Kathe Hembrick founded the museum in 1994 because she found that the African-American experience was missing from all the plantation tours that existed in the area when she returned to Louisiana from California in 1991. The museum began in a room in the Tezcuco Plantation but is now at 608 Charles Street in Historic Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Many people are unaware of two important facts when it comes to Donaldsonville, Louisiana. The first is that it was the capital of Louisiana from 1830-1831 and the second is that the first African-American mayor in the United States of America, Pierre “Caliste” Landry, was elected mayor of this historic city in 1868.
Though the museum is now at 608 Charles Street, it has plans on expanding via three different phases. The first phase will be to renovate the Central Agricutural School House and open an exhibit entitled “The Education of African-American Children in Rural Louisiana”. This historic building in the Convent, Central and Romeville communities was the primary educational facility for African-American children in St. James Parish from the 1930’s until the 1960’s. The second phase will restore and renovate one of the centers of civil and social activities in the Donaldsonville area for African-Americans, True Friends Hall. Founded by a group of African-Americans that called themselves the True Friends Benevolent Society in 1883. This society provided the African-American community with burial insurance, medical insurance, and aid to fire victims, orphans and college students. The River Road African-American Museum plans to use the building for an exhibit on the rural roots of jazz. It will also serve as a center for music and dance lessons, tutoring programs and meetings. The third phase involves relocating the Africa Plantation House from Modest, Louisiana to the new museum site. The African Plantation House was originally purchased in 1933 by Dr. John H. Lowery, one of the first African-American doctors in the area, and it was also owned at one time by Leonard Julien, the inventor of the Sugar Cane Planting Machine. Once relocated, the museum will show artifacts and documents from benevolent societies, Leonard Julien, and Dr. John H. Lowery at this site.
The Mission and The Vision
The River Road African-American Museum’s mission is dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting art, artifacts and buildings for the purpose of educating visitors about the history and culture of African-Americans in the rural communities between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
The River Road African-American Museum vision is to be the South’s premiere museum complex. The museum complex is located on the corner of Lessard and Williams Street in the historic district of downtown Donaldsonville, Louisiana. It is the only African-American museum dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting art, artifacts and buildings for the purpose of educating visitors about the history and culture of the rural communities along the Mississippi River. The complex houses a prime collection of folk art from the region.The museum’s collection includes several buildings: Central Agricultural Schoolhouse, the True Friend’s Benevolent Society Hall, and the Africa Plantation. Visitors will learn about the African and American influences on Louisiana architecture, agriculture, politics, music, folklore and cuisine.
The River Road African-American Museum features the following permanent exhibits: Free People of Color, Influences on Cuisine, Rural Roots of Jazz, River Road Black Doctors, Louisiana Black Inventors, Folk Artists, Louisiana Underground Railroad, Reconstruction, Plantation Education, and Slave Inventories. Learn more about these exhibits by visiting this link: River Road Museum’s Permanent Exhibits
Support the Museum!
Support the River Road African-American Museum by participating in their current Brick Campaign. For $100.00 you can have your name engraved on a brick at the Museum. These funds will help the museum renovate the Central Agricultural School House. Learn More About: The Brick Campaign
You can also support the Museum by becoming a member! Learn More About: Membership
406 Charles Street
Donaldsonville, LA 70346
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