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AAAM Oral History Collection

Association of African American Museums (AAAM)
Oral History Collection

Started in the Fall of 2021, this oral history collection explores the work of leaders in the field of Black Museums who have been members of the Board of Directors of the Association of African American Museums (AAAM). These leaders have held a variety of roles in the field and came to the work in a myriad of ways. These oral histories examine their personal and professional backgrounds, what led them to museum work, what they do on a day-to-day basis, their relationship to AAAM, the people who influenced them the most in the field, their vision for the future of Black museums, and recommendations for people who want to enter the field.

Dina Bailey Vedet Coleman-Robinson Redell Hearn
Tim Barber Jacqueline Dace Tee Jones Auntaneshia Staveloz
Dina Bennett Bert Davis Ashley Jordan Ahmad Ward
Samuel Black LaNesha DeBardelaben  Joy Kinard Kheli Willetts
Dion Brown Omar Eaton-Martinez Deborah Mack Doretha Williams
Brian Carter John Fleming Marion McGee


Dina Bailey
Dina Bailey is the Founder and CEO of Mountain Top Vision and past Secretary of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Mountain Top Vision was started in 2016 by Dina Bailey to address the growing needs of fundraising and organizational development for small arts + culture organizations. Using a unique approach that combines research in empathy, bias, diversity, equity, and inclusion with strategies and techniques from the fields of anthropology and transitional justice, Mountain Top Vision specializes in supporting organizations as they transform themselves into places that consistently center inclusion in decision-making and action.

Dina Bailey has over 15 years of experience in formal and informal learning. Since 2008, she has focused on collaborating with museums, cultural organizations, and nonprofits. She has a proven record of fostering organizational growth and strengthening institutional infrastructure while resolving multiple and complex issues. Dina is a national thought leader with extensive experience in developing inclusive solutions in collaboration with volunteers, staff, boards, and stakeholders. She is a recognized trainer, author, and speaker on the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing organizations in transition. A skilled facilitator, Dina has developed exceptional approaches that lead to both a breadth and depth of inclusive action. She has developed tools that increase the likelihood of successfully transitioning from theory to practice.

Dina has served as the Board Chair of Next Generation Men & Women, the Secretary of the American Association for State and Local History, the Chair-Elect of the American Alliance of Museum’s Education Committee, and the Secretary of the Association of African American Museums. As a recognized expert, Dina has consistently presented at professional conferences. Her publications have been required reading for undergraduate and graduate-level education, museum studies, and public history programs.

Her previous positions have included being the Director of Methodology and Practice for the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, the inaugural Director of Educational Strategies for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Director of Museum Experiences for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and a high school English teacher at Pike High School. Dina holds an undergraduate degree in Middle and Secondary Education, with a concentration in English, from Butler University (Indianapolis, IN); a graduate degree in Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation from the University of Sussex (Brighton, England); and, a graduate certification in Museum Studies from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH).

Tim Barber
Timothy A. Barber is the Executive Director of the Black Archives, History & Research Foundation of South Florida and member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Barber has held numerous positions at the Black Archives; including his beginnings as archivist intern in 2003, promotion to Archivist and Curator in 2006, and current appointment as Executive Director since 2009. As Director, Barber successfully administered a ten million dollar GOB capital grant fund to expand and re-open the Historic Lyric Theater, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. He has also leveraged federal grants from the Institute of Museums and Library Services along with local county grants to create sustainability for the organization’s operations and programming. Under his leadership, The Black Archives has become one of the leading black cultural institutions in South Florida; through the development of signature arts, culture and educational programming. Barber has engaged in national partnerships with organizations such as the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, for the South Florida exhibition of Visions of Our 44th President Barack Obama at the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater. Barber has also been influential in restoring Miami’s Historic Overtown as a destination for cultural entertainment, theater and events, working as a cultural partner of the SEOPW Community Redevelopment Agency.

Dina Bennett
Dina Bennett is the Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, and member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Dr. Dina M. Bennett is the Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, and an ethnomusicologist who specializes in African American music and culture. Dr. Bennett most recently served as the Founding Curatorial Director of the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, the first national institution dedicated to educating, preserving, and celebrating more than fifty music genres and subgenres that were created, influenced, and inspired by African Americans. She has previously served as the Associate Director of the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas; Director of Education at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi; and as the Manager of Collections and Exhibitions at the American Jazz Museum (AJM) in Kansas City, Missouri. During her AJM tenure, she oversaw the museum’s temporary and permanent collection exhibitions, and served as the co-curator and consulting ethnomusicologist for the museum’s John H. Baker Jazz Film Collection Exhibition (2009), the first addition to the jazz museum’s permanent exhibition since its opening in September 1997. Originally from Topeka, Kansas, Dr. Bennett earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Washburn University, a master’s degree in College Student Personnel from Kansas State University, and a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology with a minor in African American & African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University. Dr. Bennett has over 30 years’ experience in the music field and is an accomplished pianist. She currently serves on the advisory team of scholars for “A History of African American Music,” an interactive timeline produced as a resource for Carnegie Hall’s 2009 festival “Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy. Dr. Bennett is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Samuel Black
Samuel Black is the Director of African American Programs at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh and past President of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Samuel W. Black is the Director of the African American Program at the Senator John Heinz History Center.  He is a former President of the Association of African American Museums (2011-2016) and served on the Executive Council and the Advisory Council of the Association for the Study of African American Life & History (ASALH) as well as the program committee of the American Alliance of Museums. Black is a member of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society of Pittsburgh and the former vice president of the ASALH Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch. He serves on the board of directors of the International Black Business Museum. He is the recipient of the Dr. John E. Fleming Award of the AAAM in 2016, a 2018 graduate of the Jekyll Island Management Institute of the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) and a 2019 Fulbright Germany Transatlantic Seminar Curator of the Smithsonian Institution and Leibniz Association of Germany.

Black is the curator of award winning exhibitions, “Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era” America’s Best Weekly: A Century of the Pittsburgh Courier”From Slavery to Freedom” andThe Vietnam War 1945-1975” (2019). He is the curator of African American historical and cultural content at the Heinz History Center including the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

He is the author of a number of essays, book reviews, and narratives including, “African American Photographers of Cleveland, 1930-1965” in Yet Still We Rise: African American Art in Cleveland, 1920-1970; “The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center: Museum of Conscience” in Ohio Valley History Journal.  His pending articles and reviews include “African Americans in the Vietnam War” in Oxford University Bibliographies.

Black is the editor of Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era (2006) and co-author of Through the Lens of Allen E. Cole: A Photographic History of African Americans in Cleveland, Ohio (2012) and editor of The Civil War in Pennsylvania: The African American Experience (2013).

Dion Brown
Dion Brown is the Managing Director of Nonprofit Services for Nimble Strategies in St. Louis and past member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

In February 2018, Dion Brown became the President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In the first three months, analyzed and completed the fiscal year operating budget, reducing by $1M. Spokesperson for the institution engaging the community, current donors and new donors resulting in a higher visibility for the organization. These efforts led to contributions of over $1M. Built strong collaborative partnerships with several organization to include the YWCA, Jewish Federation, African American Chamber, Cincinnati Police Department and the LGBQT among others. The relationships helped to secure over $1M in funding.

Brown was the founding executive director of the National Blues Museum from June 2015–February 2018. He helped the start-up grow and flourish, gaining recognition from CNN, National Geographic and the New York Post as a “must see” museum. His previous role was as executive director of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi. While museum programming, tours, and attendance greatly expanded under Brown’s leadership, he simultaneously raised funds, balanced the organization’s budget and positioned the organization as a viable business and a strong community resource and champion. In 2013 he was recognized by the Delta Business Journal as one of its “Top Minority Business Leaders.” Prior to his leadership at the BB King Museum, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas. He directed a staff of more than 70 people, and managed the day-to-day operations of the museum and its $5 million budget.

Brown holds a certificate of fundraising from the IUPUI School of Philanthropy, a bachelor’s of science in human resources and a master’s of science in leadership from Southwestern College. He is also retired from the United States Air Force after 21 years of service.

Brian Carter (Transcript)
Brian Carter is the Executive Director of 4Culture in Seattle and past President of the AAAM Board of Directors.

As Executive Director of 4Culture, in Seattle, WA, Brian J. Carter serves as chief executive officer, creating and maintaining a clear vision for this cultural funding organization. He oversees development and implementation of all services, programs, and projects that support the organization’s vision, mission, and values. Brian acts as the primary liaison to elected officials, community partners, constituents, and stakeholders, building effective relationships that nurture a culturally healthy King County. Prior to this position, Brian served as Director of Interpretation at the Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture, in Seattle, WA, Museum Director at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, OR, and was a founding staff member of the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, where he served as Deputy Director/Head Curator. Carter graduated with high honors from Stanford University, where he majored in American history with a minor in African and African American studies. He is also a graduate of the University of Washington Master of Arts in Museology. He is the President of the Board of the Association of African American Museums, a member of the American Alliance of Museum’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Task Force, and serves on the Advisory Board of the University of Washington’s Museum Studies Certificate Program.

Vedet Coleman-Robinson
Vedet Coleman-Robinson is the Executive Director of AAAM.

On February 29, 2019, the Board of Directors of the Association of African American Museums (AAAM) announced Vedet Coleman-Robinson as its next Executive Director. Coleman-Robinson’s hire came on the heels of AAAM’s 40th Anniversary year, during which the all-volunteer Association embarked on an ambitious fundraising effort to bring on this full time staff member. With generous support from its members, long-timer sponsors, and a three-year, $400,000.00 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, AAAM was poised to grow and continue its important role serving the black museum field.

Coleman-Robinson comes to AAAM from the National Park Service (NPS) where she served for eleven years as a Grants Management Specialist within the State, Tribal, Local, Plans & Grants Division (STLPG). During her time at the NPS, Vedet was the Program Lead for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Grant (HBCU) and the Underrepresented Community Grant programs for STLPG.  She has devoted herself to helping bring voice to communities that lacked representation in the fabric, space and time of American history, and was the subject-matter expert in the STLPG Division on the policies and procedures of museums who were awarded grants. In her eleven years with the NPS, Vedet worked closely with numerable grantees to help preserve their stories through grant programs such as Save America’s Treasures, African American Civil Rights, HBCU, Preserve America, Underrepresented Communities, and the Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).  She also served in leadership roles within the National Park Service’s Employee Resource Groups to help foster and promote relationships and visibility of employees and sites that are underrepresented within the National Park Service and was often called upon for historic research studies that pertained to African American history and culture. Coleman-Robinson is a long-time and life member of AAAM and has played an important role growing the ranks of the Association’s members, through her role on the Membership Committee.

Prior to her role at the NPS, Vedet worked for and with several museums within the DC Metro Area and helped to either create diversity plans for Board of Directors, visitors, and staff, social media fundraising plans, facilitated stakeholders meetings and assisted in the overall sustainability of several programs and grants.

Jacqueline Dace (Transcript)
Jacqueline Dace is the Executive Director of St. Louis ArtWorks and member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Jacqueline Dace is the Executive Director with St. Louis ArtWorks, in St. Louis, MO. She previously served as deputy director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; director of internal affairs and interim executive director at the National Blues Museum; project manager for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson; collections manager at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago; curator of African American history at the Missouri Historical Society and adjunct professor of Afro-African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dace is a recipient of the Hollywood Black Film Festival and Kansas City Film Festival Awards, as well as the National Arts Strategies Fellowship. She participated in the inaugural Public History Institute, developed by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, held at Yale University. Dace has served as a practitioner with W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity program and graduated from the Jackson Division of the FBI Citizens Academy. Dace also served on the local arrangements committee for the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums and is a board member for the Association of African American Museums. Dace was recently selected to participate in the first American Express Women in Music Leadership Academy, 2018, held in New York City, and recipient of the 2019 Ohio Valley Regional Emmy for the documentary. “Mandela: Prepared to Die.”

Bert Davis
Dr. Robert (Bert) Davis is the President and CEO of the America’s Black Holocaust Museum and member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Dr. Davis brings an extensive background in nonprofit museum management, education, and fundraising to the AAAM Board. Most recently, he was Principal of the nonprofit strategic consulting firm DRMD Strategies, LLC and former President and CEO to two Iowa organizations: the Dubuque County Historical Society and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. He is also the former President and CEO of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. During his tenure there, Dr. Davis secured a $6.7 million donation, the largest foundation gift the Society had received to date. Prior to the Zoological Society, Dr. Davis was Vice President of Education for Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. His previous leadership roles also include Vice President of Education at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Director of Education and External Affairs at Zoo Atlanta, and he was the first African American to serve as a Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park Department of Animal Health in Washington, DC.

LaNesha DeBardelaben (Transcript)
LaNesha DeBardelaben is the President and CEO of the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle and President of the AAAM Board of Directors.

LaNesha DeBardelaben is President & CEO of the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) in Seattle, Washington. Under her leadership, NAAM is repositioning itself for accelerated growth. Prior, she was Senior Vice President of Education & Exhibitions at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. Her 15+ year career in museums began at the National Museum of Kenya in Africa in 2001, and she has studied museums and libraries internationally in Ghana, South Africa, England, Germany, and Israel.

As a historian and museum director, LaNesha has contributed scholarly writings to national publications. LaNesha has received numerous awards for her community and professional service, including the 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Committee’s Edwin T. Pratt Community Service Award, 2020 Female Founders Alliance Unsung Heroes Award, 2019 WNBA Inspiring Women Award, 2017 Michigan Chronicle’s 40 Under 40, 2015 Michigan Chronicle’s Women of Excellence, and 2014 Crain’s Detroit’s Business 40 Under 40 awards. She is a graduate of the SEMC Jekyll Island Management Institute for museum managers in Georgia, Leadership Detroit for civic leaders, and American Express Executive Leadership Program in New York City. She is an active member of both The Links, Incorporated and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

She has a Bachelor of Arts in history and secondary education from Kalamazoo College; a Master of Arts in history and museum studies from the University of Missouri in St. Louis; a Master of Library Science in archives management from Indiana University-Bloomington; Master of Arts in Comparative Black History from Michigan State University; and is currently pursuing a PhD.

Omar Eaton-Martinez (Transcript)
Omar Eaton-Martinez is the Assistant Division Chief of Historical Resources at the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, Natural and Historical Resources Division, Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation and Vice-President of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Omar leads the Prince George’s County Historical Resources which include historical house museums, an aviation museum, the Black History Program and archaeological parks. He also oversees the programming of those sites with an emphasis placed on preserving, sustaining and enhancing these resources as well as engaging and building communities through education, outreach and innovation. Most recently he managed the interns and fellows program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH). He builds coalitions that support diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion. Omar has worked at the National Park Service, the Office of the National Museum of the American Latino Commission, NASA and he also was a K-12 teacher in NYC and DC.

He has held a leading role on the Steering Committee for Museums and Race: Transformation and Justice, a movement to challenge and re-imagine institutional policies and systems that perpetuate oppressions in museums since 2016. This includes leading the facilitation of an MOU we have with AAM to curate the Museums and Race Community Center & Transformational Lounge during the Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo for three years. Moreover, he contributed to the Museum as Site for Social Action project, which seeks to align museums with more equitable and inclusive practices.

In 2016, he was named the National Board Chair for Museum Hue, an arts and humanities organization committed to the advancement of people of color in the field. He also has been a board member for Words, Beats and Life, dedicated to Hip Hop Education and the Ambassador Horace G. Dawson Scholars, supports the cultural enrichment and college readiness for young men. His research interests are Afro Latinx identity in museum exhibitions, Diversity and Inclusion in museums and cultural institutions; and Hip Hop history, culture and education. Moreover, he has supported the work of Camino A Loíza and Corredor Afro, which are separate projects centering blackness in Puerto Rico.

In 2019, Omar was selected to be an American Alliance of Museums Diversity. Equity. Accessibility. Inclusion (DEAI) Senior Fellow, which is dedicated to diversify museum boards. Additionally, he was appointed to the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission by Governor Larry Hogan, the first commission of its kind in the country. Omar Eaton-Martinez is member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., a husband, and father of four children.

John Fleming (Transcript)
John Fleming is a museum consultant and past Museum Director-in-Residence at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville; Senior Consultant for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum; Consulting Director of the International African American Museum Project in Charleston; Director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati; Vice-President of Museums for the Cincinnati Museum Center; Founding Director of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio; and President of the AAAM Board of Directors.

John Fleming was born in Morganton, North Carolina. He graduated from Berea College, Berea, Kentucky, in 1966. He attended the University of Kentucky and the University of Malawi before graduating from Howard University with a Ph.D. in American History in 1974. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi from 1967-69. He also served as an Education Specialist for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, and as Program Analyst for the United States Civil Rights Commission. He was a Senior Fellow for the Institute for the Study of Educational Policy at Howard University.

In 1980, he was invited to join the Ohio Historical Society as Project Director for the Development of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, Wilberforce, Ohio. The Museum opened in 1988 with Dr. Fleming as Founding Director. In 1998 he served as the director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. From 2001 to 2007, he served as Vice President of Museums at Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, where he oversaw the operations of the History, Natural History, and Children’s Museums, as well as the Cincinnati Historical Society Library, the Geier Collections & Research Center, and the Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve. He was the Executive Producer for “America I Am: African American Imprint on America,” a 12,000 sq. ft. traveling exhibition and served as the consulting director of the International African American Museum Project in Charleston, S.C. He serves as the senior consultant for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and director of the planned National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee.

He has published three books and over 45 articles and chapters in books. He has served as President of the Ohio Museums Association and the Association of African American Museums. He has served on the board of dozens of organizations including the American Association of Museums. He was awarded lifetime achievement and distinguished service awards by the Ohioana Library, Ohio Museums Association, Berea College, the National Peace Corps, the Association of African American Museums and the American Association for State and Local History. He is currently writing a book about his Peace Corps experience in Malawi, Africa.

He was named by the Governor of Ohio to serve as a delegate to the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism and to serve as a member of the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board. He was appointed by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior to serve on the National Underground Railroad Advisory Commission. President George W. Bush named him to the National Museum of African American History and Culture Presidential Commission. He is married to Barbara Fleming, a psychologist and author. They have two daughters.

Redell Hearn
Redell Hearn is the Director of Academic Affairs of the Mississippi Museum of Art and past member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Dr. Redell R. Hearn is the Founding Director of the Department of Academic Affairs for the Mississippi Museum of Art. Just prior to this appointment, Dr. Hearn served as the Curator of Art and Civil Rights for Tougaloo College and the Mississippi Museum of Art, where she curated exhibitions and programs related to the American Civil Rights Movement, drawing on the permanent art collections of the College and the Museum. In 2016, she was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Grant in Museum Studies, at the request of the U.S. Embassy in Dakar Senegal, where she worked with three local museums on special projects and conducted museum professional development training. Hearn earned a Master of Arts in Museum Studies, a Master of Philosophy, and a Doctorate in Humanities from Syracuse University. Her dissertation, From Practice to Theory: An Exploratory Research Study of the Relevance of Museum Studies Curriculum to Museum Professionals, proposes museum studies as the recognized academic discipline for training museum professionals. Dr. Hearn has taught in the M.A. Museum Studies program at Johns Hopkins University since 2010 and is the Founding Director of the first graduate-level museum studies program in the state of Louisiana.

Tee Jones
Tee Jones is the CFO of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and Treasurer of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Tsitsi (Tee) Jones has served as Chief Financial Officer and member of the Sr. Management Team for the National Civil Rights since 2006. Located at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, The National Civil Rights Museum chronicles key episodes of the American civil rights movement and the legacy of this movement to inspire participation in human and civil rights globally. Tee has been serving as Treasurer for the Association of African American Museums since 2014.

Tsitsi (Tee) Jones was born in Zimbabwe and spent the first 17 years of her life there. Tee holds an undergraduate degree in Accounting and Business Administration with a minor in Mathematics from Central Methodist University in Fayette, MO and a Master’s in Business Administration from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, MO. Tee has been a CPA since 2004.

Ashley Jordan (Transcript)
Ashley Jordan is the President and CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, past Senior Director of Development at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, past Executive Director of the Evansville African American Museum, and member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Dr. Ashley Jordan is the President & CEO at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. Prior to serving in this role, she served as the Executive Director for the Evansville African American Museum in Evansville, Indiana. In addition to her professional experiences in public history, she has also served as an adjunct professor for North Central State College in Mansfield, Ohio. In May of 2017, Dr. Jordan graduated with her doctorate in United States History from Howard University. She completed her undergraduate degree at Kent State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in political science in 2008. Dr. Jordan is also the proud recipient of numerous professional, academic and civic awards including the Pace Setter Award from the Association of African American Museums, a multiple doctoral fellowship recipient for the Filson and the Kentucky Historical Societies and the Black Excellence.

Joy Kinard
Joy Kinard is Superintendent of  Alabama’s Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site and Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail and member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Kinard’s 20-year NPS career reflects an abiding interest in the preservation and advancement of stories pertinent to African-American and American heritage. She has held multiple leadership roles, including her current 4-year tenure as the first superintendent of Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument; a term as National Capital Parks-East central district manager, where she managed the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, National Archives for Black Women’s History, and Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, among other units; and assignments as acting chief of interpretation, education, and cultural resource manager at the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. She also served as a park ranger at various sites in Virginia and Maryland, educating visitors on the stories of prominent figures in American history, including George Washington, Frederick Douglass and Robert E. Lee.

Deborah Mack (Transcript)
Deborah Mack is the Interim Director of the National Museum of African Art, Associate Director for Strategic Partnerships at the National Museum of African American History, and  past member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Deborah L. Mack, PhD is Associate Director for Strategic Partnerships at the National African American Museum of History and Culture (NMAAHC), Smithsonian Institution. From 2000 to 2012 her national and international professional practice centered around museum planning and strategic planning, on interpretive and exhibition development, and on cultural and heritage tourism. From 2007 – 2010 Mack was appointed a Georgia Commissioner for the Gullah-Geechee National Heritage Commission, Department of the Interior (National Park Service).

She has served as a project advisor for a number of Lowcountry sites, including the planned International African American Museum in Charleston SC; Penn Center on St. Helena Island SC; Historic Mitchelville Preservation Foundation Hilton Head Island SC; Owens-Thomas House and Ossabaw Island Foundation in Savannah GA. From 2005-2011 Mack served on the NMAAHC Scholarly Advisory Committee and served as co-curator of the inaugural permanent Cultural Expressions exhibit that features Lowcountry stories places and material culture. Mack holds a Ph.D. and an M.A., in anthropology from Northwestern University, and a B.A. in geography from the University of Chicago.

Marion McGee
Marion McGee is a Program Specialist in the Office of Strategic Partnerships of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and past Vice-President of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Marion “Missy” McGee is a Program Specialist in the Office of Strategic Partnerships of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Marion administers the design, implementation and evaluation of key collaborative initiatives and multi-state programs for the only national museum congressionally mandated to strengthen and elevate the profile of African American museums, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and other institutions promoting the study or appreciation of African American history and African diasporic cultural heritage in the United States.

Marion is currently serving her third term on the Association of African American Museums (AAAM) Board of Directors where she serves as the Vice President of the board, chaired the 2019 Annual Conference and oversees external communications, including leading the redesign of the organizational brand identity and website.

Her areas of expertise include long-term strategic planning and organizational forecasting through relational and participatory leadership. She believes in creative problem solving through the embrace of failure, experimentation, and innovation. Her servant leadership style afforded her distinction as one of the “40 Under 40” recognized by the Alexandria, Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Prior to joining NMAAHC, Marion served as Executive Director of the John G. Riley Center/Museum of African American History & Culture in Tallahassee, Florida where she oversaw all phases of organizational operations including: administration, fundraising, programming, visitor experiences and coalition building. She engineered the redesign of the organization’s website, creative content development for five social media platforms, and led the automation of the museum’s ticketing, fundraising, and contact management systems, while overseeing the construction of a new visitor’s center and administrative workspace.

She is a former interim director of the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network (FAAHPN). During her tenure, she also managed the planning and coordination of biennial statewide conferences for FAAHPN, bringing together representatives from across the state of Florida to share best practices and gain professional insight. Using her aptitude for technology, she led the development of a mobile app, the complete overhaul of the FAAHPN website, and implemented an integrated communication system for increased connection among association members.

Marion is a gifted strategist who takes a passionate approach to transforming organizations through workshop facilitation, resource allocation and partnership development. She received a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration from the Florida A&M University.

She is currently completing her PhD in Leadership & Organizational Change at Antioch University, enabling her to implement best practices and proven methods of leading, growing and sustaining organizational change.

Auntaneshia Staveloz
Auntaneshia Staveloz is the Senior Director in the Office of Strategic Partnerships of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and past Vice-President of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Auntaneshia Staveloz is the Senior Manager in the Office of Strategic Partnerships at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture. She boasts a 20-year career in museums—nationally and internationally. She has an extensive background in strategic planning, professional museum training, government relations, education programs, youth development, public policy and social justice. She serves as current Vice President, Association of African American Museums, Chair, Career Development Grant for the American Association of University Women, and previously worked at the American Alliance of Museums.

Ahmad Ward
Ahmad Ward is the Executive Director of the Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Ahmad Ward is the Executive Director for the Mitchelville Preservation Project on Hilton Head Island, SC. The mission of the Mitchelville Preservation Project is to preserve, promote and honor Historic Mitchelville, the first self-governed town of formerly enslaved people in the United States. Ward is responsible for developing and implementing a master plan, that will recreate this historic town as an interpretative site. The Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park will convey this important story of freedom and citizenship to visitors from around the country.

Prior to this position, Ward spent fifteen years leading the Education Department at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham Alabama. It is there where he honed his expertise in telling the story of civil and human rights in America, with a focus on historic analysis and application to current social justice issues. With Masters-level training and years of experience in exhibition design, he brings a strong understanding of storytelling and the importance of technology in interpretation. He has been responsible for creating programming partnerships with local schools, universities and organizations; teacher and student resources; written articles, blogs and essays for local, national and international platforms as well as the development of public programming for community-at-large in the areas of civil and human rights movements, multiculturalism and contemporary human rights issues.

Ward is a native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He received a BA in Art from Elizabeth City State University and a MA in Museum Studies from Hampton University. He is a member of Rotary of Hilton Head Island Club and the Jekyll Island Management Institute Selection Board. He is a former member of the Smithsonian Affiliates Advisory Board. His hobbies include drawing, watching sports, cooking, sleep (when possible) and fantasy football. He and his wife, Dafina have two brilliant daughters, Masani Ashiya and Aminah Elon.

Kheli Willetts
Kheli Willetts is Principal and Founder of DIRA Professional Development and past member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Doretha Williams
Doretha Williams is the Program Manager for the Robert F. Smith Fund at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and member of the AAAM Board of Directors.

Dr. Doretha Williams is the Center Director, The Center for the Digitization and Curation of African American History (Smith Center) National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution.

The Robert F. Smith Center for the Digitization and Curation of African American History (Smith Center) at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) serves as the burgeoning digital humanities and public history forum for the NMAAHC. The Smith Center’s mission is to make historical collections accessible through digitization, public programming and interaction, and to support educational development in the museum and archives fields. Through the Community Curation Project, Professional Curation Program, Interns and Fellowships opportunities and the Explore Your Family History Center, the Smith Center serves as a major public outreach component for NMAAHC.

Dr. Williams received her degrees from the University of Kansas and Fisk University.

Please note that, due to the storms that swept across Mississippi in mid-June and ongoing renovations from the accompanying damage, the Margaret Walker Center will be closed to in-person visitors until further notice. If you have research requests or other questions, e-mail us at