The historic Black rights organization the National Urban League announced Tuesday that New York City's new civil rights history museum will be headed by a museum leader from Detroit.
Jennifer Scott has been selected as founding executive director and lead curator of The Urban Civil Rights Museum, billed as the first of its kind in the city, and a centerpiece of the NUL’s new Urban League Empowerment Center in Harlem. Scott has served as the first senior vice president of exhibitions and programs at Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, visited by more than a half-million people a year, according to its website.
The New York center, on 117 W. 125th St. near Marcus Garvey Park, will also house the NUL’s headquarters along with 170 units of affordable housing, retailers like Target and Trader Joe’s, and office space with below-market rent for community groups and nonprofits including One Hundred Black Men of New York and Harlem’s Jazzmobile.
The $242 million, 414,000-square-foot center is scheduled to open in late 2024 or early 2025.
“I am thrilled to lead this timely and special charge,” Scott said in a statement. “It will be an honor to bring out the unique stories of the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, and the long fight for justice in the North, from early African American communities to the current Black Lives Matter era.”
The museum will showcase the “long fight for justice in the North” – like the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance – “from early African American communities to the current Black Lives Matter era,” Scott said.
Earlier, as a museum director in Chicago, Scott advised Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the city’s monuments and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on genocide education for the state’s Holocaust commission.
Scott also has longstanding ties to New York City. An anthropologist and public historian, she has taught for more than 20 years at The New School on subjects including race and ethnic studies, cultural anthropology, and civic engagement. She also worked for nearly a decade at Brooklyn’s Weeksville Heritage Center, a memorial to a free Black community living there before the Civil War, where she helped redevelop the center’s programming and restore the historic site.
“As one of the nation’s leading museum experts and public history scholars, Ms. Scott has the depth of experience and knowledge to create a world-class museum that will serve as an anchor for the National Urban League’s new headquarters, the Urban League Empowerment Center, in Harlem,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said in a statement.