North Carolina African American Heritage Commission

The North Carolina General Assembly created the African American Heritage Commission (AAHC) in 2008 to “assist the Secretary of Cultural Resources in the preservation, interpretation, and promotion of African American history, arts, and culture.” With this legislation the AAHC has identified African American Heritage Practitioners, such as curators, docents, and museum directors, as priority service populations. The AAHC was moved from the Office of Archives and History to the North Carolina Arts Council in late in 2011. The commission will work across the Department of Cultural Resources to achieve the mission of preserving, protecting, and promoting North Carolina’s African American history, art, and culture, for all people.


To transform and enrich people and communities by sharing North Carolina’s African American history, arts, and culture.


To preserve, protect, and promote North Carolina’s African American history, arts, and culture for all people. 


1. SUSTAINABILITY – Develop a plan for financial and leadership sustainability for the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission and its work;

2. PUBLIC AWARENESS – Foster public awareness through media, publications, and face-to-face contact.

3. RECOGNITION – Identify people, places, themes, and programs that help shape North Carolina’s African American heritage;

4. PARTNERSHIPS - Develop partnerships and working relationships at the community, state, and out-of-state levels that support our mission.

The Commission’s guiding value is to be responsive to community needs and voices.

Current Commissioners

From the left: Commissioner Pierre Crawford, Former Commissioner Annie McCoy, Former Commissioner Jereann King, Wayne Martin, Michelle Lanier, Commissioner Charles Evans, Sec Kluttz, Commission Chair Valerie Ann Johnson, Commissioner Sylvia Ezelonwu, Commissioner Lavonda Daniels, Commissioner Philip Henry

Johnson, Valerie Ann Dr. (Oxford)

Crawford, Pierre (Gastonia)

Arrington, Marvin (Greenville)

Henry, Philip N. (Raleigh)

Daniels, Lavonda (Raleigh)

Miller, Altareit (Greensboro)

Evans, Charles (Fayetteville)

Toppin, Louise (Durham)

Yarbrough, Walthea (Gibsonville)

Projects of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission:

The Gathering Place Project

In North Carolina’s African American communities, more and more museums are developing to gather people, memories, and objects in order to preserve a rich heritage. The Gathering Place Project (GPP), a training and outreach initiative of the AAHC, is providing statewide assistance in connecting and growing community, organizational, and individual skill-sets among and for African American museum spaces. Our goal is to facilitate the growth of best practices for North Carolina’s African American museum spaces which include cultural centers, archives, historic schools, historic homes, historic cemeteries, galleries, and libraries.

For more details visit: The Gathering Place Project

Freedom Roads

Freedom Roads is a statewide trail system designed to recognize the roads, rivers and ports in North Carolina that were crucial to the efforts of enslaved African Americans seeking freedom, and to those groups and individuals who supported and assisted their efforts. This program will highlight the story of freedom seeking via the Underground Railroad as well as avenues of liberation created during the Civil War.

The maritime and land routes of Freedom Roads will tell the story of documented sites that have evidence of high and/or exceptional runaway activity, including colonial towns, ports, rivers, plantations, Quaker communities, Union occupied territories, contraband camps, and freedmen’s colonies and settlements. Documented sites include designations in the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom (NTF) Underground Railroad program as well as other sites and routes recognized by historians and/or archaeologists as significant to African American freedom seeking.

For more details visit: Freedom Roads

For additional information about the N.C. African American Heritage Commission contact:

Michelle Lanier 
Director, N.C. African American Heritage Commission
Senior Program Director, Traditions & Heritage, North Carolina Arts Council 
(919) 807-6518 (office); (919) 807-6532 (fax)