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'We know our resilience.' Plano celebrates Juneteenth with reopening of African American Museum

The Plano African American Museum is housed in a 1900s home Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. After a decade, the museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth celebration.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
The Plano African American Museum is located on 13th Street in the historic Thornton House. The museum will reopen Saturday, June 17.

Nestled in one of the oldest neighborhoods, the Plano African American Museum (PAAM) is ready for its soft reopening.

The museum is the first and only freestanding institution of its kind in Collin County. McKinney has a small exhibition of African American history in their downtown courthouse.

The museum has had a digital component since 2021, but the physical building has been closed for nearly 10 years. After many renovations, it will be opening to the public on Saturday.

It is situated in the Douglass Community, Plano's own freedmen's town. This is a place where formerly enslaved African Americans settled, predating June 19, 1865, or Juneteenth.

The upcoming soft opening, scheduled strategically during the weekend of Juneteenth celebrations, is only one on the list of events happening in Plano, but one of the most anticipated.

Photos tell the story of the Douglass Community at the Plano African American Museum Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. After a decade, the museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth celebration.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
Photos tell the story of the Douglass Community at the Plano African American Museum Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. After a decade, the museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth celebration.

A highlight is the museum's newest exhibit, "This is Douglass: Faith, Family, Forever,” commemorates early founding families of the Douglass Community such as the Drakes, Stimpsons, and Thomases.

Dollie Thomas, a museum board member, is also a descendant of one of the founding families of the Douglass Community and the daughter of Ben Thomas, an early museum founder.

The museum represents a rewriting of a narrative surrounding the history of African Americans in Texas but particularly in Collin County, Thomas said.

She describes this weekend's soft reopening as "a labor of love."

"We would love to have for everybody to come down and see the Douglass community, it's always had this stigma of because it was maybe low socioeconomic and predominantly African American," Thomas said.

"It was the scariest place in Plano to be. But that's why we wanted it in Douglass proper so that people could come down and see Douglass," she said.

A room is decorated with furniture from the early 1900s to showcase the history of the Douglass Community at the Plano African American Museum Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. The museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth parade and celebration.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
A room is decorated with furniture from the early 1900s to showcase the history of the Douglass Community at the Plano African American Museum Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. The museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth parade and celebration.

The Douglass Community is home to three historical markers in Plano — Pioneer Cemetery, Shiloh Church, and the Douglass Center, which was formerly the community's segregated school. Thomas, along with her cousins and siblings, were among the first generation of Black students integrated into Plano ISD.

She shares that she sees the museum's reemergence as a survival story and a learning opportunity for future generations.

"We're doing this mainly for the generation coming because we know our resilience. And what we want to do is we want to teach our children, although we were slaves and we were this and we were that — we are still here and we survived it," Thomas said.

Jessica Bloomingberg and her sons moved to Plano from Chicago only four months ago.

"We didn't do much celebrating (Juneteenth) in Chicago. It just gained popularity a few years ago," Bloomingberg said. She found out about the existence and reopening of the museum from a post in a Facebook group.

Shackles are displayed on a colorful blanket at the Plano African American Museum Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. After a decade, the museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth celebration.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
Shackles are displayed on a colorful blanket at the Plano African American Museum Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. After a decade, the museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of formerly enslaved African Americans in 1865. It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than 40 years and is now federally recognized.

However, it has been long celebrated by Black people since the first few years after the emancipation.

Baskets from Ghana on display in the gift shop at the Plano African American Museum Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. The museum is reopening after a decade with a Juneteenth celebration Saturday, June 17.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
Baskets from Ghana on display in the gift shop at the Plano African American Museum Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. The museum is reopening after a decade with a Juneteenth celebration Saturday, June 17.

Bloomingberg hopes to set a tradition of celebrating Juneteenth with her sons and says the museum's reopening is the first step in setting these traditions.

As a new resident, she wasn't aware of the history of Black residents in Plano and Collin County.

"I didn't think there would be any events happening here celebrating Juneteenth, I thought I would have to drive far out to find one. I also didn't think Plano had an African American Museum. I'm excited to show my sons that there is history here that we can relate to," Bloomingberg said.

The Plano African American Museum is housed in a 1900s home Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. After a decade, the museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth celebration.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
The Plano African American Museum is housed in a 1900s home Friday, June 16, 2023, in Plano. After a decade, the museum is reopening Saturday, June 17, with a Juneteenth celebration.

The soft opening will follow a Juneteenth parade in Plano's Historic Douglass Community at 900 13th Street.

The museum will be open from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is free to the public.

Got a tip? Email Brittany Stubblefield-Engram at bstubblefield-engram@kera.org.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Brittany Stubblefield-Engram is the Digital Engagement Fellow for Arts Access. She previously served as the Marjorie Welch Fitts Louis Fellow for the KERA newsroom. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, she received her Bachelors of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of North Texas at Dallas. She is a Hip-Hop scholar and prior to her trajectory into journalism, Brittany worked in non-profit management.