The Legacy Museum of African American History: A Conversation with Talea Teasley
written by Alyssa Wilson, University of Lynchburg Bonner Intern
The Legacy Museum of African American History in Lynchburg, VA was started by The Legacy Project Inc. and opened its doors in 2000. Since then, it’s been working towards the mission of enriching the lives of visitors by fostering an appreciation of the diversity of the African American experience in Lynchburg and surrounding areas. We sat down with Talea Teasley, Executive Director of the Museum, to talk about the organization.
SHARE: Tell me about yourself and what got you interested in working with a museum.
Talea: I began my career working with nonprofits, and then spent several years in travel management and creative services for film and tv. I moved here to help care for my grandmother who was born and raised in Lynchburg. She graduated from Dunbar High School and then moved to New York. After 50 years she decided she wanted to come back home.
I would come to visit and ended up falling in love with the city and the community. So, when she needed help we decided to move. I think what has really drawn me to the Legacy Museum was my own need to feel connected. I grew up feeling very disconnected from this area and from a long line of roots here. Originally, I came to Legacy as the grant coordinator and then fell in love with all of it.
I love stories and the human connection and experience. It’s important to hold onto our collective stories, and our history.
SHARE: What is the mission and vision of the Legacy Museum?
Talea: The mission is to share the history and culture of Lynchburg and Central Virginia’s African American experience. We do that not only through exhibits, but also through workshops, lectures and events.
SHARE: What impact has the museum had on you personally?
Talea: I don’t think prior to working at the museum I was completely aware of all the accomplishments and gains in regard to the African American community in Lynchburg and Central Virginia. I think I’ve learned through some of the exhibits that a lot of foundations were laid here that have really impacted other areas of the country. It’s fulfilling when we have students come in, that they can see a vision for themselves beyond what they thought was possible.
SHARE: Tell me about the programming and events you’ve had over the past month.
Talea: This is the third year we’ve had The Quincy Armstrong Show, which is a mock talk show that we have done in partnership with Lynchburg Parks and Recreation. Local playwright, Teresa Harris wrote and produced segments of the show where they interview historical figures. This year we focused on the 5th Street area. The show aired every Sunday throughout the month of February, on channel 15 and all the episodes are also up on the Parks and Recreation Youtube.
This was also the second year we were invited to do an installation at Belk. We highlighted the sports exhibit that is currently featured in the museum with a few new panels. We also held a community celebration with Kuumba Dance Ensemble, talent from The Quincy Armstrong Show, and spoken word and poetry from The Listening, Inc. We hope to continue to do this annually.
We’ve given private tours to groups over the month as well. The UP Foundation scheduled a tour, Boys and Girls Club came and several other youth groups.
SHARE: What do you want people to know about the Legacy Museum that they may not know just from visiting your SHARE profile or website?
Talea: I want people to know that The Legacy Museum has been here for over 20 years, it’s really the community’s museum and the first dedicated to African American history in Central Virginia. We even have a community consensus to see what community members want for future exhibits. I want people to know that we are here, that everyone is welcome and that they can visit or join us at any time.
The founders established an endowment fund held at the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation that’s used for exhibits. The only way we know we’re able to continue to mount exhibits, and they rotate every other year, is because of the endowment. For the rest, we depend on fundraisers and donors.
Everything we do is generally free and open to the public. We do charge a small admission fee for the museum, but I’ve never seen anyone turned away.
To learn more about the museum and everything they do in the community, visit their SHARE profile today!