River Road African American Museum Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Photos by Gerard Preen and Bruce Wayne
Marie Bell Data News Weekly Contributor

A Celebration of Culture and Introduction of New Executive Director L’Oreal “Kamaria” Evans
On Thursday March 21, 2024, River Road African American Museum celebrated its 30th Anniversary with the launch of its newest music series Third Thursdays (a tribute to local Louisiana music), and a welcome reception in honor of its new Executive Director, New Orleans native, L’Oréal “Kamaria” Evans.

The Story of River Road African American Museum
The River Road African American Museum, located in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, is a cultural and historical gem dedicated to celebrating and interpreting the lives of African Americans in the River Road region, both before and after the American Civil War. Founded in 1994 by Kathe Hambrick, it was among the first museums in Louisiana to focus on the contributions of Africans and African Americans. Originally established at the Tezcuco Plantation, the museum moved to Donaldsonville in 2003 after a fire destroyed the plantation.

The museum is part of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail and offers a detailed portrait of African American life in the sugar parishes of the area, with materials relating to slavery, freedom stories from Southeastern Louisiana’s Underground Railroad, and the rural roots of jazz music. The museum also focuses on rural Black doctors, Creole life, Black inventors, and African influences on Louisiana cuisine.

Rebuilding And A Bold New Vision
The event was sponsored in part by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and held at the most recent of its five buildings to come online, the Rosenwald School. Opened in only October of 2023, the building took over 20 years to completely refurbish and open. This past summer it hosted the first of its S.T.R.E.A.M. events for youth and will continue this summer with a full 2-month program. Currently, it is hosting the 365 Days of Wellness Soul Line Dancing Classes, an initiative created by Evans designed to get Donaldsonville activated and promote awareness of Black Dance in Louisiana and America.

Harambe: Celebrating A Community Coming Together
The night was enjoyed by Louisiana natives from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and featured the jazzy smooth flow of New Orleans’ own Girls Play Trumpet Too Founder, Troy Sawyer & The Elementz. In attendance were River Road African American Museum Founders, Kathe & Darryl Hambrick, the Mayor of Donaldsonville, Leroy Sullivan, and History Maker, Mrs. Juanita Collins Pearley (1st African American Queen Elks Lodge 1153 in 115 years). Industry leaders from Shell, BASF, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, Donaldsonville City Council, and Members of Louisiana Pan Hellenic Council all came out to engage with young professionals, to celebrate 30 years of remarkable work and welcome the future and forward progression of the museum which is celebrated as the first institution for the preservation of African and African American Culture in the State of Louisiana.

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