Oakland African-American Library and Museum Targeted for Shutdown

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As residents in Oakland, Calif. fight to save many of their local libraries from the budget axe, one of the most revered is the African American Museum and Library, which is considered a hallmark in Oakland’s Black community.

According to The Oakland Tribune, protestors voiced their opposition to the proposed plans at a rally outside the targeted facility on May 21.

“People are angry and people are passionate about their libraries,” Carmen Martinez, director of library services for the city told the Tribune.

The museum is home to rare books, papers and memorabilia pertinent to Black life in the San Francisco Bay area since the time when California was a part of Mexico. According to its Web site, its more than 160 collections contain the diaries of prominent families, pioneers, churches, and social and political organizations.

The museum also houses the collection of Henry Delton Williams, a costume designer who crafted pieces for Motown and Hollywood stars.

Under Mayor Jean Quan's proposal, 14 of Oakland's 18 libraries face closure in order to settle a $58 million deficit.

The African American Museum and Library costs about $800,000 to run annually, while the Oakland Museum of California has a budget of $15 million. Though the cost of all of the city's libraries combined only comprises about 2 percent of the budget, Quan fears that contributions from locals will drop to just enough to maintain four libraries.

The city plans to announce their final decision on as to the closings on June 21. In the meantime, residents have created a Web site for those interested in supporting Oakland's libraries.

The African-American Museum and Library is not alone among financially troubled Black museums across the nation. According to BET News, officials recently announced that Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History could receive a steep budget cut, as the city aims to slash 75 percent of its tourist and artistic centers.