James Lane Post presents the “East End Community Spotlight” series, highlighting non-profit organizations doing work on the East End. To submit a non-profit organization to be featured in this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Southampton African American Museum (SAAM), located at 245 North Sea Road, is the first Black barbershop transformed into a museum in the United States. The museum promotes an understanding and appreciation of African American culture by creating programs that preserve the past, encourage learning, and enhance community life.
Brenda Simmons, SAAM’s Founder and Executive Director, told us more about the museum.
Can you tell us about your organization?
SAAM is a former barbershop built in the late 1940s by Emanuel Seymore, who came from North Carolina to Southampton during the Great Migration. Escaping the discomfort of Jim Crow Laws, he purchased the property and built the building half a barbershop and half a beauty parlor. A research team of professionals who visited SAAM has confirmed that SAAM is the first Black barbershop transformed into a museum in the country.
Last, but not least, we were awarded a $125,000 Digital Tapestry grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, which is an augmented Virtual Reality app loved by the students and young people who visited SAAM — a phenomenal, fun educational tool.
Talk about the importance of this work on the East End.
In short, so much of our Black history, which should not be separate/divided/apart from American History, is being erased or simply has not been included in our educational school system’s curriculum or taught in fragments or untruths.
SAAM’s mission statement is to promote an understanding and appreciation of African American culture by creating programs that will preserve the past, encourage learning, and enhance the life of the community. SAAM will research and collect local history, produce media events, create exhibitions and community celebrations, treasuring the past, tending to the present, and transforming the future.
How can the East End community get involved?
Frankly, as a small organization surrounded by larger organizations, continued financial support and volunteers.