Take the Black History Tour of Downtown Grand Rapids


Credit: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

Take a free interactive tour of Grand Rapids’ Civil Rights history. Sponsored through Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., (DGRI) and created by local high school students, residents were asked to share their stories and knowledge of African-American leadership, culture and community in Grand Rapids. The result? An interactive, self-guided walking tour that highlights some of the historical moments of the African American experience and legacy in Grand Rapids.


The History Tour of Downtown Grand Rapids encompasses two miles with accompanying podcasts narrated by City Commissioner and Grand Rapids Urban League President, Joe Jones. The tour features 11 points of interest, starting with Helen Claytor  who was not only the first black President of the Grand Rapids YWCA, but also held the same unique position at the national level; other stops include the historic Fountain Street Church, which has hosted Malcolm X and Langston Hughes; and Crescent Park, where the urban renewal legacy of Lyman Parks, Grand Rapids’ first African American mayor, is still seen in the city’s ever-expanding skyline.


Take this tour, or other GR Walks tours, any time by downloading the GR Walks smart phone app at www.grwalks.com. The app is also available for download in the Apple App Store and Android's Google Play.


GRAAMA is now open during its regular hours - Tuesday  through Saturday, noon til 5pm. Please keep in mind that the museum continues to adhere to local, state, and federal restrictions concerning COVID-19. We appreciate both your understanding and patronage.


All upcoming events will be tentatively scheduled and to be based upon restrictions of mass gatherings to further reduce the spread of COVID-19

Annette Radden African American Doll Collection

dates to be announced

GRAAMA's 2021 theme is, "Collecting: Preserving Our Relics & Legacy" which continues with exhibiting personal pieces from collections of local residents.


Until fairly recently, dolls which are a ethnically representative of African Americans, were not available. Debbie Behan Garrett, the author of Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion, feels “I’m emphatic about a black child having a doll that reflects who she is,” Garrett says. “When a young child is playing with a doll, she is mimicking being a mother, and in her young, impressionable years, I want that child to understand that there’s nothing wrong with being black.”


GRAAMA spotlights Annette Radden’s illustrative collection of black dolls to better examine their place America’s history. From rags dolls, to Aunt Jemima paper dolls, to Christie – Barbie’s first black friend, to American Girl’s Addy, Annette’s collection covers the spectrum and beauty of collecting dolls of color. In addition, GRAAMA’s curator will provide the public free doll appraisals.

Voices of the Civil Rights Movement

dates to be announced

In partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, GRAAMA is hosting, "Voices of the Civil Rights Movement," an interactive kiosk featuring stories and interviews with leaders of the struggle for equal rights. The videos in the kiosk are part of a collection of historical narratives and firsthand accounts of activists, participants, community leaders, elected officials and others.


Included in the new hands-on kiosk are interviews with key figures of the civil rights movement, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, the Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles and many more. Visitors not only experience history through the eyes of those who were there, they will also hear about key events and milestones through a series of 52 vignettes called "Moments in Civil Rights History." The series is narrated by the late civil rights activist Judge D’Army Bailey.

Exposing Our Roots: A Real Dialogue Between Africans & African Americans

dates and times to be announced

Exposing Our Roots: A Real Dialogue Between Africans and African Americans is a 4-part lecture series designed to explore the cultural, educational, health, racial and social justice, relationships, and political issues impacting our black communities across the globe.


Panelists will include specialists and professionals including Dr. Andre Fields, Pastors Curtis Thompson and Umenei, Niecy Stewart, Fridah Kaniani, among others to lead indepth discussions covering our differing histories, relationships, food, art, beliefs education and politics.


You won’t want to miss these four amazing lectures presented by Life Chats-Magic's radio personalities Meochia Thompson,  Brian T Flippin and Michelle Jackson in partnership with the Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives.

Newbery & Coretta Scott Award-winning Author, Christopher Paul Curtis

Summer 2021

With the GRAAMA's theme of family this year, what could possibly be better than hosting the author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963? The debut novel from award-winning Christopher Paul Curtis introduces us to the "weird" Watsons who hail from Flint, Michigan. Christopher discusses the creation of the "weird" Watsons, the book's transition to theatre and big screen, how did he become a writer, and more.


Current itinerary includes book signings and GRAAMA presenting Tony Lewis Lee's (Spike Lee's wife) 2013 movie adaptation. More details forthcoming.



photo by Mike Naddeo


Calvin Center for Faith & Writing: Kadir Nelson

Spring 2022

In partnership with Calvin University, GRAAMA is ecstatic to co-host internationally recognized and award-winning illustrator and author, Kadir Nelson. Besides delivering a plenary talk during the 2022 Festival of Faith & Writing on Calvin’s campus, Kadir is scheduled to appear at a free event within the local community displaying a number of works from his illustrated book, WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro Baseball, among other acclaimed pieces.


Kadir explained that African American history is one of the themes that inspire his work as an illustrator because it gives him an opportunity to use his illustrations to tell the story about the struggles African Americans had to go through, in his own unique way. As an example, his published The Undefeated covers 35+ African Americans including Miles Davis, Langston Hughes, Jack Johnson as well as depict historical events like the Civil War, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.


N.E.W.S. Exhibits


Idlewild Historic and Cultural Center


7025 Broadway Avenue

Idlewild, MI 49642-0435


  • 2020 program schedule tba



Jim Crow Museum (Ferris State University)


1010 Campus Drive

Big Rapids, MI 49307



Tuesday - Friday: 12-5pm



African American Cultural & Historical Museum


PO Box 130724

Ann Arbor, MI 48105



  • 2020 program schedule tba



Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History


315 East Warren Avenue

Detroit, MI 48201



Tuesday - Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 1-5pm


Motown Museum


2648 West Grand Boulevard

Detroit, MI 48208



October 1, 2019 -May 1, 2020

Tuesday - Saturday: 10am-6pm



Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum


6325 West Jefferson Avenue

Detroit, MI 48209


The museum is currently closed as it undergoes renovations


James Jackson Museum of African American History


7 East Center Street

Muskegon Heights, MI 49440



Dr. Nathan Thomas  House - Underground Railroad


Schoolcraft Historical Society

P.O. Box 638

Schoolcraft, MI 49087

  • tours available via writing the Schoolcraft Historical Society


Gilmore Car Museum


6865 Hickory Road

Hickory Corners, MI 49060

Monday - Friday: 9am - 5pm

Saturday & Sunday: 9am - 6pm

  • The Negro Motorist Green Book



@ 2020 Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives


87 Monroe Center St NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

616.649.3778 o