Philadelphia’s African American Museum has a new leader

Dr. Ashley Jordan

Dr. Ashley Jordan, formerly the director of development at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, is the new president and CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia’s African American Museum has announced its new president and CEO. Doctor Ashley Jordan started her new job on Tuesday.

Jordan, of Mansfield, Ohio, had most recently been the director of development at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, while also teaching at North Central State College.

She moved to Philly just days ago, and has started to explore her new home.

“I definitely want to take one of those double-decker tour bus trips,” she said. “I feel like they are a window to our past, but also a way for me to get connected to understand more about our other cultural institutions here in the area. I’m looking to work with them as well.”

In a statement, museum board chair Sabrina Brooks said Dr. Jordan’s “well-rounded experience as a manager, curator, and professor of African American studies make her uniquely qualified to lead our esteemed institution.”

Jordan takes over the 45-year-old institution a year after its previous CEO, Patricia Wilson Aden, stepped down to take a job as head of the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.

Jordan is impressed by what the museum has accomplished so far.

“I believe some of this site’s best attributes is the fact that it highlights the stories of those African-Americans that are unsung, lesser-known, or forgotten,” she said. “Sometimes with African American history, we know about the notable, more famous people of history. But this site really balances the narrative.”

Dr. Ashley Jordan, formerly the director of development at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, is the new president and CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Jordan plans to transform the African American museum into a world-class destination through the three E’s: education, engagement, and expansion. She particularly wants to lean into digital and online programming, for which it has just been awarded a $256,000 grant by the Pew Center Arts and Heritage.

“People will see that this is a must stop,” she said. “Before you get to Washington, D.C. or before you get to New York, you have to stop by Philadelphia.”

The museum has a core historical exhibition tracing the lives and accomplishments of Black Philadelphians over the last 300 years. The upstairs galleries feature curated special exhibitions, often related to the arts and social justice. It currently features an exhibition of 20th century graphic designer Anna Russell Jones, which is open through the end of this week.

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