The Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center was founded in 1988 by the Arna Bontemps Foundation, Incorporated, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. The organization was formed through the Division of Community Affairs, Office of the Mayor, City of Alexandria, Louisiana.
The Museum is the restored childhood home of Arna Bontemps - poet, author, anthologist, and librarian - who was considered the leading authority of the Harlem Renaissance. The period - sometimes referred to as the "New Negro" movement - is when young Black writers went to Harlem to share the Black experience through their writing.
The home, which was impacted by I-49 construction, was rescued, relocated, restored, and established as the first African American Museum in Louisiana. Since its opening in August of 1992, the Museum has become a nationally recognized treasured landmark and a model institution that serves a cross-cultural community. The birthplace home of Arna Wendell Bontemps stands as a symbol of our past, present, and future. The Museum belongs to the community just as the works of Arna Bontemps belong to Alexandria and the world.
The mission of the Arna Bontemps Museum is to further knowledge of the legacy of Bontemps and to promote awareness of African American history and culture through programs in the humanities and arts that include preservation of artifacts, mounting exhibits, and educational programs.
The Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center seeks to achieve the following goals through its programs: 1) promote an understanding and appreciation of African American culture among a diverse audience; 2) establish the Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center as an important part of the community through community-wide programs that facilitate interaction among different cultures; and 3) become a partner in multicultural education through collaborative programming.
As the first African American Museum in Louisiana, the Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center "has become one of the primary cultural institutions in Rapides Parish.... In its purpose, featuring African American history, the museum carries a unique role in Central Louisiana..." observed William Worthen, Jr., American Association of Museum Surveyor in his museum assessment, December 11, 1996. Mr. Worthen further states that "The Harlem Renaissance was a singularly important period in African American history...the Museum has a connection many...institutions don't have."
A National Register of Historic Places site.
The only historical landmark in Rapides Parish listed in African American Historical Places published by the National Park Service in 1994.
Referenced by former Senator J. Bennett Johnston in the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative Act as an emerging museum that serves as a model for other museums.
Cited in Alexandria's All-America City Award.
Recognized by the Louisiana Preservation Alliance and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Featured topic at the 1996 African American Museums Association's National Conference.
Highlighted in local, state and national periodicals.
The Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center has become a significant provider of quality cultural and educational programming.