The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM), which tells the history of Black Americans in San Antonio, was originally founded in 2017 on the East Side and has recently moved to La Villita.
The museum consists of a timeline, digital archives, and displays, all telling the stories of African Americans in San Antonio. According to Deborah Omowale Jarmon, SAAACAM’s executive director, SAAACAM establishes the African American story in San Antonio for everyone to learn about.
“It was to fill a need for African Americans and the community to recognize that we have a place here and we’ve had a place here since the 1500s,” Jarmon said. “Our story has not been written in the textbooks, and it’s very difficult to find. So our goal was to capture those stories, preserve them, and then share them.”
The entrance room consists of walls lined with panels recounting important African Americans, and the events that shaped their history, in San Antonio dating back to the 1500s and through to the 21st century. The timeline is semi-permanent, as panels can be switched out to match different programming or themes in the other exhibit room.
The second room is a rotating exhibit curated by a team of at least three researchers, three community members, and one or two early childhood or elementary school educators. Each exhibit has different teams putting it together.
Currently, the exhibit features the life and work of photojournalist and civil rights advocate Eugene Coleman. San Antonio music from an African American perspective will be the focus of the next exhibit.
The Coleman exhibit tells his life story through photographs, text blurbs, countless physical and digital copies of his work, his camera equipment, and a video interview of him on a large screen. It’s a fully immersive experience to hear his voice, look at his photographs, and read the pages of his original East Side newsletter, SNAP, which is short for Snapshot.
Jarmon is hopeful that the new more-central location will make their history even more accessible to the San Antonio community.
“We’re excited about the location because it allows people that are downtown to be able to come in at no charge, to see what the African American history is in San Antonio,” Jarmon said.
The museum also offers 1½-hour boat tours nearby on the San Antonio River for $25 per person. GO RIO Cruises provides the barges, while SAAACAM provides the tour guides, to recount historic landmarks by the Pearl and downtown.
After the museum’s lease ended at the Sutton Home at 430 N. Cherry St., SAAACAM on March 4 moved to La Villita, generally a retail district. Bidding as the only historical institution, the museum competed against four other potential tenants, and won.
“I have to attribute it really to God and timing,” Jarmon said. “Our lease ended and we needed to find another place, and we looked around and this came up as a possible location with the City of San Antonio. I wish I could say that the city said, ‘Oh yes, SAAACAM needs to be here!’ But no, we had to bid just like artists.”
Spreading the knowledge of African American history exists as the driving force of SAAACAM.
“The challenge with history is it’s basically been written from the lens of the colonizer. And so, we want everyone’s story to get out, and typically people of color. We want people to recognize that we have a place,” Jarmon said.
SAAACAM is open every 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. It is located at 218 South Presa St.
Setting It Straight: This article originally misstated the number of applicants for the space at La Villita SAAACAM now inhabits. It was five, including SAAACAM.
Clarification: This article was updated to reflect in more detail the nature of the next exhibit.
Jolie Francis is a Heron intern this spring. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in urban studies at Trinity University. She graduates in May.