the Birth of the Museum
Co-Founders, Dorothy “Dot” and Bobby Guthrie, husband and educator, were determined to showcase Black history and culture in a museum. They felt that Gaston County should have a museum that houses and reflects documented artifacts of the contributions of African Americans to the development, history and culture of the county. After discussing the importance and desire to have such a venue with their friend and colleague, James “Jim” Biggers (1948-2019) whose dream was similar, Dot Guthrie was inspired to explore a site to fulfill the dream.
Prior to embarking upon the mission, Guthrie was again inspired, organized information collected about African Americans and shared with another colleague, Eula Hoyle in order to celebrate Black History Month. Together they created a mini museum in the Family Life Center at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Gastonia, NC
Paramount in the heart and mind of Guthrie was then and is true today, that through the museum, young people will have opportunities and resources to grow from a “fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset,” while acquiring skills necessary to become productive citizens and maximizing their talents and abilities. Likewise, adults of all ages will be able to gain insight and knowledge about themselves, their ancestors and others who have impacted Black history and culture.
Guthrie was strengthened and motivated by the experience as a librarian and author who sought for cultural resources reflective of the rich and vibrant history of African Americans. Her notable experiences as Media Coordinator, work at the National level with the American Library Association, The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, all enhanced her thirst for and drive to pursue and realize the dream.
With a dedicated Planning Board of diverse educators and technologists, and a host of supporters, the dream of Dot Guthrie and Jim Biggers became a reality! On Saturday, February 16, 2019 at 10:00 am, the African American Museum of History and Culture at Loray Mill in Gastonia, NC was opened to the public. The grand opening ceremony brought together elected officials, community leaders and citizens of various diverse backgrounds to represent the culture of Gaston County.
For one year, the founders, Dot and Bobby Guthrie, Planning Board and volunteers labored, day and night, to make sure that the Museum professionally and accurately reflected the culture and environment conducive for learning and growth of all citizens locally and abroad. Joe Lenihan, owner of Loray Mill, honored the request of Curator Dot Guthrie to have the Museum housed in an area of Loray Mill. Anthony Gallant, CEO of Gallant State Farm Insurance in Gastonia, NC, became the official sponsor and advocate for the Museum.
The authentic information, variety of exhibits, curriculum and programs held in the Museum stimulated interest, awareness and awakened the conscience of citizens of Gaston County and surrounding counties and even other states. Consequently, the volume of visitors, individuals, and groups, from various agencies, schools, churches, and organizations increased tremendously.
The museum celebrated their one year anniversary with a gala on February 16th, 2020. The museum now is not only growing and expanding their content but their attendance and available opportunities. The museum constantly holds events throughout the year ranging from group tours to book exhibits. Check the calendar for an update on current and upcoming events!