If you are lucky, you might find yourself in the capable hands of 17-year-old Saba Tesfay as your youth docent when you visit this hidden gem of a museum this summer.
The graduating senior and aspiring physician will lead you through the remarkable, 10,000-square-foot wall of African-American history murals, sharing her deep knowledge and sharp commentary. And she might begin the tour with this:
“I love history. We don’t get taught our part of history at school. We get acknowledgement during Black History Month, but we only learn about slavery and segregation.”
The Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum celebrates, through art and historical documentation, both Black struggle and achievement throughout history in Sacramento, the United States and around the world.
Artist Shonna McDaniels, supported by a cadre of other creatives, developed the museum with grants and donations over many years. The busy, colorful place was designed to use art, much of it created locally, to educate the community and to revel in the rich contributions of Black entrepreneurs, architects, educators, artists, entertainers, sports figures, racial justice fighters and political leaders.
After struggling for years to land a larger location to house the museum’s growing collection, a tenant departure at Florin Square opened up another 2,500 square feet of space. The additional rooms are now full of engaging exhibits, many of which include explanatory audio recordings and artifacts to help tell their stories. One space, for example, teaches about Sacramento’s first Black-owned restaurant, Dunlap’s Dining Room, an Oak Park establishment that could serve only whites. Another celebrates Black people who escaped slavery and became millionaires.
“God has shown me that I need to stay put and stay focused,” McDaniels says. “We are able to serve the community in a way no other museum can.”
In addition to the murals and exhibits, the museum offers tours, workshops and art experiences for student groups, as well as frequent events, including Second Sunday Family Days and Second Saturday with music, art tables, food and films. Visitors to Florin Square also will find more than 75 minority-owned businesses from ethnic art shops to aestheticians and nonprofit social services organizations.
Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum
Location: Florin Square, 2251 Florin Road
Hours: Thursday–Sunday noon–5 p.m., Wednesday by appointment
Price: $4 for adults; $3 seniors; $2 ages 13–17; free for children 12 and younger
More information: sojoartsmuseum.org
Open Thursday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; 1020 O St. californiamuseum.org
California State Railroad Museum
Open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; 111 I St. californiarailroad.museum
Crocker Art Museum
Open Thursday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; 216 O St. crockerart.org
Sacramento History Museum
Open Tuesday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; 101 I St. sachistorymuseum.org
Sacramento Regional Fire Museum
Open Saturday–Sunday 10 a.m.–2 p.m.; 3650 Industrial Blvd., West Sacramento. sacfiremuseum.org