Housed in a small office space in Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. state office building, the Museum of African American Cinema (MoAAC) contains over 4,000 collectible items, from vintage film prints to original costumes from films like Malcolm X and Ghost Dad.
Gregory Javan Mills, Ernest N. Steele and 20 other founding members established MoAAC as a non-profit back in 2001, after seeing the need for black representation among other collections of American cinema.
“I used to cringe when I’d see a montage of great American films, and not one black film,” says Mills.“So that’s why we’re here, to tell our story.”
Mills is currently seeking funds to display the collection in a permanent space. Below, find a video giving a look inside the collection, from Narratively:
From an unassuming office building in Harlem, inside one man’s mission to preserve Bill Cosby’s costume, Dorothy Dandridge’s dispatches and other iconic heirlooms of African-American film.
Produced by Emon Hassan for Narratively’s “The Movie Life” (Feb 28, 2014)
With more than 4,000 collectible items ranging from vintage film posters to a Zoot suit costume from Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, the Museum of African American Cinema (MoAAC) is actually a modest four-room office space on the ninth floor of Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.
MoAAC, formed in 2001 as a nonprofit organization, is the brainchild of Gregory Javan Mills, Ernest N. Steele and twenty other founding members. Mills, its current C.E.O. & president, remembers seeing an episode of “Tony Brown’s Journal” on PBS in the mid-1980s devoted to early black cinema. He and the others spent the next decade and a half researching the history of black cinema in the United States. The idea to create a museum didn’t materialize until the late ’90s. Mills is on a mission to secure funds to display the vast collection, evidence of the largely untold history of black cinema, at a permanent establishment.
Emon Hassan, Narratively’s Director of Video & Multimedia, is a New York-based filmmaker and photographer. He is also a contributor to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/emonhassan
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