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Bill aims to kickstart creation of Black heritage museum in Springfield

A mural at the Pan African Historical Museum in Springfield's Tower Square. State Rep. Bud Williams' bill would authorize a new museum in the Mason Square neighborhood.
Tristan Smith
/
MassLive / masslive.com
A mural at the Pan African Historical Museum in Springfield's Tower Square. State Rep. Bud Williams' bill would authorize a new museum in the Mason Square neighborhood.

Updated on Oct. 15, 2021

The Massachusetts Legislature held a hearing last week on a proposal that would lay the groundwork for a Black heritage museum and cultural center in Springfield, Massachusetts.

State Rep. Bud Williams is sponsoring a bill to begin planning the museum in Springfield's Mason Square. He said there is a need for a cultural center to educate the public on African American abolitionists in western Massachusetts and the significance of the Underground Railroad.

“One of the safest and most significant stop in the Underground Railroad was Springfield,” Williams said. “By the late 1850s, there were more than 200 free Blacks [who] resided in Springfield. A lot of folks think our history was just slavery, but our history wasn't just slavery. This would go a long way in establishing an institution we could all be happy with.”

Williams is currently the only sponsor of the bill, but said he is working on getting other lawmakers to sign on. If the bill passes, he said he will work to secure funds for the land and museum.

There is currently a small museum about African American and African culture in Springfield. The Pan African Historical Museum USA (PAHMUSA) is located downtown, in Tower Square.

Williams said the museum in his bill "could be an expansion of PAHMUSA" but "hasn't gotten there yet." A representative from PAHMUSA did not immediately respond for a comment.  

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Massachusetts State Rep. Bud Williams' name in the photo caption.

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