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The African-American Museum celebrates 30 years of black history since the inception of its vision

In 1986, founder Jack Kelley started with a dream and made it real

Event hosts Anthony Bailey of CBS47 along with community organizer Viva Straughter recap on the history concerning the legacy of the African-American Museum.


(Fresno, Calif.) – This past Saturday, Sept. 17th, the African-American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) celebrated 30 years of local black history from throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Founder Jack Kelley’s initial vision of a museum, first started promoting pictures of local Valley greats from the trunk of his car.

It was three years later, in 1989, where he was able to house the pictorial exhibit into a building for public tours and intrinsic exhibits related to the African-American experience.

The AAHCMSJV Founder’s Day, hosted by CBS47 Anthony Bailey, and co-hosted with community organizer Viva Straughter, shared the story of the vision of Sergeant Jack Kelley, his wife, the founding board members, and other stories and memories from the community who knew him.

Community leader and founding AAHCMSJV executive director Gwen Morris took to the stage to share the past memories of Jack Kelley, his vision to expand from Stockton to Bakersfield, and how support is essential today to maintain the existence of local history.

The AAHCMSJV board chair, Julia Dudley Najieb, revealed the board’s new mission, visionn for the property and information about upcoming exhibits and events at the facility.

The latter part of the afternoon included vendors, a kids-zone w/free hot-dog meals for kids, entertainment, AAHCMSJV facts and history hosted by Take A Stand, as well as free scheduled public tours of the Museum, curated by former executive director, Gregory Melancon.

The History of the African-American Historical &Cultural Museum

The African-American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley was founded in 1986 by retired Fresno City police officer, Sergeant Jack Kelly and his wife Rosa Kelley. It is the only non-profit educational facility of its kind. The museum houses hundreds of historical photographs, artifacts and memorabilia dating back to the 1880’s which documents the numerous contributions of local African-Americans who live or are from the San Joaquin Valley. Pictorial exhibits profiling African- Americans who have excelled in the fields of government, politics, art, education, religion, health, business, law, medicine, sports, agriculture, and the work of local African-American artist are prominently displayed for educational tours.

Founder Jack Albert Gilbert Frank Kelley was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on August 23, 1920, one of eight children born to Frank and Fannie Cobbs-Kelly. He excelled in three sports at Tulare Union High School and at Fresno State College in the 1940’s. In 1943, he served his country for two years in Europe.

On April 26, 1946 Jack married Rosa L. Conley. They were blessed with six children: three daughters, a son, and two daughters from a previous union. In 1949, Jack became a Fresno Police Officer and became the departments first African American Sergeant in 1969.

Upon retirement in 1970, he became a Law Enforcement Coordinator at California State University, Fresno. The most visible reminder of his legacy is the African American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley, he founded with his wife Rosa. Because of his legacy, other pioneers are recognized on the walls of the museum, which breathe the rich history of the black community; the African-American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) was founded by retired Fresno Sgt. Homicide &Detective Kelly in 1986 against many odds.

He will be best remembered for his generosity,

his big gracious smile and for his favorite quote by Will Rodgers, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”

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