Bay Area museum celebrates African American achievements


An office park is the least likely place you'd expect to find a museum, but one in Menlo Park houses an extensive collection of African American history assembled over the past 15 years by Carolyn Hoskins, wife of the late 49er Bob Hoskins.

"There's so much history, and it just kept snowballing and it just kept getting bigger and bigger," Hoskins told ABC7 News. She can't even guess the number of items in the collection, but the artifacts fill 17,000 square feet of donated space.

There are walls or tables devoted to pioneers in various fields. There is a collection of African American-themed toys and books, reminders of segregation and literature that reflect the pre-civil rights era. There is even a room devoted to the extensive contributions of African American musicians and performers. "All of this history is something that they don't get in schools, and one of their favorite rooms to go into is the inventions," Hoskins said.

In that room, visitors learn that African Americans invented the ironing board, the refrigerator, the rolling pin, the remote controller, and the traffic signal. All of this stemmed from a question from Hoskins' grandson 15 years ago. The museum is named for him. "So his question to me was, 'Weren't there any other famous black people that did anything?'" she said.

And now, youngsters can find the answer.

For one mom, the museum is living history. One of her professors was seven-term Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the House. "Right after she came out of the house, she came to Mt. Holyoake for a semester and she was my professor there. I was lucky enough to have her," Sharon Hobbs told ABC7 News.

The museum is located at 190 Independence Dr. in Menlo Park. It's open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adult admission$5, student admission is $3, children under 5 can visit for free.

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