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Re-Opening of the America's Black Holocaust Museum

Sunday, February 20, I took a 2-hour drive to Milwaukee, WI. As a member of America's Black Holocaust Museum, I attended a private reception. The grand opening is Friday, February 25, 2022.

America's Black Holocaust Museum was founded by Dr. James Cameron, a lynching survivor. The museum covers 400+ years of black history starting from the cradle of life to the present.

The museum honors Milwaukeeans such as Vel Phillips, the first black woman to graduate from the University of WI-Madison law school, first black/female Secretary of State in Wisconsin, the first black judge in the State of Wisconsin, the first female judge in Milwaukee County and the first black and first female alderperson elected to the Milwaukee Common Council.

Cameron was born in LaCrosse, WI, and eventually moved to Birmingham, AL. Cameron witnessed his first lynching at eight years old. A few years later, Cameron and his family moved to Marion, IN that was a hotbed of racism since the early 1920s and racial terror by the Klu Klux Klan.

On August 7, 1930, two teenagers Abram Smith, 19, and Thomas Shipp, 18, invited 16-year-old Cameron for a joy ride. They arrived at a secluded Lover's Lane with the intent to rob a white couple. When the two teens tried to rob the couple, Cameron knew the white male who was his shoeshine customer. Cameron ran away from the scene and went home. The botched robbery led to the death of Cameron's customer.

Cameron was eventually arrested and went to jail along with Smith and Shipp. While in jail, an angry white mob swelled up to 10,000 at the Marion courthouse. The mob grabbed all three teens to lynch them outside the courthouse.

Smith and Shipp were badly beaten and tortured and were hanged at the courthouse yard. White spectators watched and cheered with enthusiasm. The mob grabbed and beat Cameron and put the noose around his neck to hang him next to Smith and Shipp. Suddenly, someone in the crowd intervened and said Cameron was not involved in the murder. Cameron's life was spared.

Smith and Shipp's bodies were left hanging for several hours for spectators to witness. The horrifying image of Smith and Shipp being lynched is still visible today on the internet as a reminder of Marion, IN's racism and deadly tortures.

NAACP got involved with information about the persons involved in the lynching. Charges were filed against those that were involved but were acquitted by an all-white jury. Lynching survivor, Cameron was tried and sentenced to five years in prison. While in prison, Cameron began to write his book "A Time of Terror: A Survivor's Story."

After Cameron's release from prison, he founded four NAACP chapters in Indiana. His wife and children fought against segregation in Marion, IN.

Credit: ABH Museum

The Cameron's won desegregating a movie theater by sitting in the Whites Only section. Because of their activism, the Cameron family received death threats and moved to Milwaukee, WI.

Cameron had a hard time finding a company to publish his book "A Time of Terror: A Survivor's Story." It was too controversial. In 1982, Cameron mortgaged his home to self-publish his book. Cameron sold 4,000 copies from the trunk of his car, at schools, universities, and speaking engagements.

In 1988, Cameron opened America's Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee with the focus on preserving the history of lynchings in the United States. “I can forgive but I can never forget, that’s why I started this museum,” says Cameron. In 1991, Cameron was pardoned by the State of Indiana.

In 1994, Black Classic Press republished the book. In 2003, the book was out of print.

In 2005, the senate apologized to Cameron, their descendants, and the ancestors for its failure to stops lynchings that killed thousands of blacks. In attendance was Simeon Wrights, Emmett Till's cousin who was in the bedroom when Till was dragged out of the house and murdered in 1955.

On June 11, 2006, James Cameron passed away at the age of 92. His funeral was held on the anniversary of the museum's opening and Juneteenth. He is at rest at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum next to his wife, Virginia. America's Black Holocaust Museum closed in 2008 due to the recession.

A revised third edition of "A Time of Terror: A Survivor's Story," with five new chapters was published in 2015. In 2016, "A Time of Terror: A Survivor's Story," won the 2016 IPPY Silver Award for Best Non-Fiction in the Great Lakes Region.

The re-opening of America's Black Holocaust Museum is a day to honor Dr. James Cameron and a permanent stain in America of the racial terror, injustices, police brutality, inequality, and inequities that still continue to plague the African American community.

America's Black Holocaust Museum is located at 401 W North Ave, Milwaukee, WI. For more information, visit Please support!!!!

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Wow. Blacks were victimized all over the place. Dominated, subjugated, and enslaved- all over the world. They had their asses kicked throughout history. Like the losing-est team ever. One cannot hear “Black people” without thinking “victims”. Thanks in part to blogs like this one. Only the coldest of hearts could not feel pity for Black people, given their amazing losing-streak. And how others have so dominated them.

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