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African American Museum names new president after a yearlong search

Ashley Jordan had been with the Underground Railroad center in Cincinnati; she wants to expand the reach of AAMP.

Ashley Jordan named new president of African American Museum of Philadelphia.
Ashley Jordan named new president of African American Museum of Philadelphia.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Ashley Jordan, former senior director of development at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, has been named president and chief executive of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the museum announced Wednesday.

She succeeds Patricia Aden, who left the museum almost exactly a year ago to take up the reins of the Blues Foundation in Memphis.

Sabrina Brooks, chair of AAMP’s board of directors, said the museum was “thrilled” by the arrival of Jordan, 37, who has “a well-rounded experience as a manager, curator, and professor of African American studies [that] make her uniquely qualified to lead our esteemed institution.”

Jordan began in her new position Tuesday.

For her part, Jordan characterized AAMP as “a crown jewel in the region that I believe will transform into a world-class destination by focusing on education, engagement, and expansion.”

During the pandemic, the African American Museum has been operating at a much-reduced capacity but has bolstered its online offerings and maintained its financial stability. (Currently the museum, in Center City at 701 Arch St., is open Thursday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

The emergence of the museum’s online presence is something Jordan said she wanted to make use of going forward.

“Our hope is that we’ll be able to reach more people through the use of a virtual platform, that we can engage more people to create more awareness about the museum and the sense that if you can’t be with us physically, you can also connect with us on our virtual platform,” Jordan said in an interview Wednesday. “So through education, engagement, and expansion we are hoping to make the museum a regional destination.”

Jordan said she is interested in the museum’s presence within the cultural life of the city.

“The museum has played an integral role, basically, in the creation and the preservation of African American voices here in Philadelphia,” Jordan said. The role of the city in “the founding of our nation,” the broader story of freedom, “the work that we’re doing in civil rights” — all is fair game for AAMP programming, she said.

“That’s the part that I’m most excited about considering is our work to add to these stories about freedom,” said Jordan.

A native of Ohio, Jordan has served as executive director of the Evansville African American Museum in Indiana and has held curatorial positions with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. In addition to her museum work, Jordan served as an adjunct professor for North Central State College in Mansfield, Ohio.

She received her doctorate in U.S. history from Howard University and her B.A. in political science from Kent State.

“For us to tell the complete narrative of African American history, we have to show the robust influences that African American history has had on music ... as well as food so we’re looking forward to expanding our offerings as a museum beyond the art world, just to show a more balanced narrative, the multifaceted side of African American history,” she said.