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How Richmond's Black History Museum plans to celebrate MLK Jr. Day

Posted at 7:36 PM, Jan 13, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- While Richmond's Black History Museum and Cultural Center celebrates Black history every day, for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the museum is planning some special events.

"We are often said we're the best kept secret in Richmond that we don't want to be," Fathie Norrell, the museum's coordinator of education and programming, said.

Norrell is doing her part to expose the secret in her role with the museum by sharing Black history stories with the community.

"I was able to introduce people, give them a little introduction to the museum, and share some of my personal stories as a fourth-generation Richmonder," Norrell said.

Part of her family connection is linked to Maggie Walker and an elementary school.

"So through marriage, my children and Maggie Walker's great, great-grandchildren. Then on my side, my grandfather was Albert Norell, there's a school on Richmond's Northside that's named for him and he was one of the true reformers and also taught for 66 years in Richmond Public Schools," Norrell said.

Norrell also spent time teaching. Now retired, her passion is to help educate others and she wants people to know about the founder of the museum, Caroll Anderson, Sr.

"It took him about 10 years to amass a collection and they opened at the 00 Clay site which was the former site of the Rosa Bower branch of the Richmond Public Library in 1991," Norrell said.

Clay Street would be the museum's home until 2016. Their next location would be the Leigh Street Armory built in 1895 in Jackson Ward.

"It was built to accommodate the first battalion of the Black militia. It's the first known armory building built in America for Blacks and it was built by Blacks. Maggie Walker's husband, Armstead Walker, was the brick contractor on the building," Norrell said.

Inside the West Leigh Street locations, several exhibitions line the walls.

"But the gem of our permanent exhibition is our timeline of Black history facts. And all of those galleries contain touchscreen technology, so when you touch the screens, you can learn more and more stories that inspire," Norrell said.

They are stories depicted in a special exhibition celebrating its four decades of serving the community.

"It's called forging freedom, justice and equality. And it covers topics such as before emancipation came, in our father's house, the Black military, entertainment, business and enterprise and newspapers," Norrell said.

The museum is also celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with partnerships, a concert with the Richmond Symphony featuring the Brown Ballerinas for Change on Sunday at the Perkinson Center. Then on Monday, there will be a day of service and remembrance with the mayor's office, the Valentine Museum and Community Clo's Project Give Back to Community Teens R Talkin.

"Of course, you know, people think of the Black History Museum for Black History Month. However, we tell Black history stories every day," Norrell said.

You can see these stories firsthand through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"So we tell stories here about people's lives and how they influenced Richmond and the community of Jackson Ward," Norrell said.