The Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) is a regionally-prestigious with an aim to open minds and change lives through African American history, art, and culture. Since opening in 2008, hundreds of thousands of visitors have come to the museum to view its permanent and rotating exhibitions, participate in dynamic public programs, or take part in private events. NAAM fills a void in the regional cultural scene by offering a space where community members come to reflect, to gain perspective, to learn, listen, and heal. NAAM uses Black history, art, and culture as a starting point that inspires, empowers, and informs all visitors about self and our shared past. At NAAM, visitors make new discoveries, are inspired to dream big, and enhance their sense of self. A key part of the mission is to foster engagement with community and to give people, especially young people, the opportunity to learn through meaningful engagements. NAAM is a necessary organization that makes measurable and award-winning impact.
NAAM’s mission is to spread knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the histories, arts and cultures of people of African descent for the enrichment of all. NAAM’s existence is a testament to the tenacity and vigor of the region’s small African American community who strove for over twenty years to establish a museum that would acknowledge their stories as an important part of the Pacific Northwest experience. In 1985, a small group of activists occupied an abandoned school building that would one day become NAAM. Led by Charlie James, Earl Debnam, Michael Greenwood, and Omari Tahir, members of Seattle’s black community supported the nascent institution during an eight-year-long occupation. In the early 1990s, the city of Seattle finally agreed to designate the old Colman School building as the site of the region’s black museum. This began the long process towards the creation of NAAM. NAAM opened its doors as a museum on March 8, 2008.
NAAM is a leading voice and space for educational empowerment, social justice, racial equity, and Black culture, art, and heritage in the Pacific Northwest. NAAM serves as a vital community gathering space in a city that is experiencing rapid gentrification. NAAM inspires and motivates, educates and informs. It advances social justice and equity. NAAM is becoming a world-class museum that enriches diversity, fosters unity, and improves the quality of life for all through our robust exhibitions, programs, partnerships, and initiatives.