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.
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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, Facebook & Google+.