Dr. Khalid el-Hakim, a native of Detroit, made a promise to himself that he would one day give back to his community.
He kept his promise by opening the Black History 101 Museum.
“The Black History 101 Mobile Museum was born out of the pledge I made to give back to the community, sparked by my participation in the 1995 Million Man March,” says, el-Hakim.
The museum is a traveling exhibit of African American history and culture. Initially, el-Hakim began with a personal collection inside of his apartment. After the Million Man March, he decided it was time for a change and began sharing his collection at gatherings of grassroots community organization meetings.
I had positive feedback after those meetings, recalls el-Hakim.
As a result, requests came in to display the collection at various venues, including churches and cultural events. His initial goals were exceeded as the museum evolved into a powerful tool to educate and raise awareness for Black history.
You can’t help but notice the unique collection of artifacts, including photographs, documents, books, and other items, that represent the Black experience in America as you look around his museum.
The museum is home to a special archive of historical artifacts, including documents signed by prominent figures such as, Booker T. Washington, Mary McCloud Bethune, Dr. George Washington Carver, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Fredrick Douglass, and Marcus Garvey, among others.
Some of the other items in the collection are an original lithograph of Timbuctoo, a bill of the sale of Africans into slavery, documents from the Jim Crow era, as well as more current documents on hip-hop culture and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Throughout the years, el-Hakim has acquired a significant portion of the materials for the Black History 101 Mobile Museum from various sources such as antique shops, garage sales, estate sales, record stores, and used bookstores.
Recently, he was able to acquire some valuable hip hop memorabilia from the Sotheby’s auction of DJ Kool Herc’s collection in New York, including several outfits, jackets, sunglasses, belt buckles, and original flyers.
“I have been dedicatedly curating my collection for over 30 years and have been displaying it in public spaces in Detroit since 1996,” he says. “In 2006, I expanded my reach and took the exhibit on a national tour.”
el-Hakim was raised on Snowden on the northwest side of Detroit and graduated from Mumford High School in 1988. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University.
“My career in education began with teaching positions at the Detroit Job Corps and Detroit Public Schools (Nolan Middle School and Detroit Lions Academy), spanning a total of 15 years,” he explains. “In addition to teaching, I was actively involved in the hip hop and poetry communities, working as a promoter, booking agent, and manager. In 2011, I made the decision to leave the classroom to fully commit to the Black History 101 Mobile Museum and further my education by pursuing graduate studies at Western Michigan University for a master’s degree and the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana for a Ph.D.”
Currently, el-Hakhim and his team are on tour as they prepare to showcase more than 150 artifacts during Black History Month. While giving the tour, he and his crew are there to greet guests and answer any questions they may have as they look around the exhibit. He also provides a one-hour lecture, to provide more in-depth information about the items on display.
“Making the Black History 101 Mobile Museum ‘mobile’ is important because it allows the exhibit to reach a wider audience and brings the history and culture of the Black experience to communities that might not otherwise have access to such resources,” he says. “By traveling to different locations, the museum can reach people in both urban and rural areas, as well as people of all ages and backgrounds.”
He says his mission was to expand the audience of his museum so that a more diverse group of people may learn and engage with the historical and cultural materials of the Black experience.
“The most fulfilling aspect of working with the Black History 101 Mobile Museum is witnessing the impact it has on its visitors,” he explains. “Seeing their reactions and listening to the conversations they have while engaging with the artifacts on display is truly profound and moving.”
He adds: I am constantly in awe of the way in which a single artifact can evoke personal stories and emotions from so many individuals. Through this experience, I have come to understand that honest and ongoing dialogue is a powerful tool for breaking down barriers and dismantling ignorance. It allows for deeper understanding and empathy towards others, opening opportunities for mutual respect and unity.
The Black History 101 Mobile Museum is making a stop in Detroit at Frontier International Academy on Feb. 7, 2023. It is also stopping in Canton this May and June. For more information on the Black History 101 Museum, including a full list of tour dates, visit www.blackhistorymobilemuseum.com.
Artifacts from the Black History 101 Mobile Museum
Flip through photos of some of the artifacts, photographs, documents, and other items on display at the Black History 101 Mobile Museum.