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Rowena Stewart

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Information about Rowena Stewart

Profile image of Rowena Stewart

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Museum Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Shrimp
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
3/6/1932
Birth Location:
Jacksonville, Florida

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Museum Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Shrimp
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
3/6/1932
Birth Location:
Jacksonville
See how Rowena Stewart is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Culturalist Rowena Stewart was nationally known as one of the foremost African American museum directors having led four major African American historical museum societies between 1975 and 2002 (The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, the Motown Historical Museum and the American Jazz Museum). She became one of the most sought after African American museum directors in the country.

Stewart was born on March 6, 1932 in Jacksonville, Florida, as the only child of Essie (Brozle) Rhodes and Oliver Rhodes. She grew up in New Berlin, Florida, and graduated in 1955 from Edward Waters College in Jacksonville. She began her career doing social work in settlement houses and reformist-minded community centers in Jacksonville and then in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1975, Stewart became the first director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society in Providence. And then, from 1985 to 1992, Stewart served as the Director and Curator of Philadelphia’s Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum. She transformed what was a rather static museum into one that was interactive. In 1992, Stewart moved to Detroit to head the Motown Historical Museum and three years later, she was recruited to Kansas City, Missouri where she oversaw the development of the American Jazz Museum and became its executive director upon completion in 1997.

In 2002, Stewart retired and moved back home to Jacksonville where she served for a time as President of the A.L. Lewis Historical Society Board and Coordinator of the American Beach Community Center and Museum on Amelia Island north of Jacksonville. She worked as a consultant to museums utilizing historical preservation, presentations and educational programs.

Stewart was the mother of four - Gwendolyn, Clarence, Alvie and Wannetta Johnson.

Stewart was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 19, 2006.

Stewart passed away on September 19, 2015.

See how Rowena Stewart is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Rowena Stewart's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Rowena Stewart lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Rowena Stewart describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Rowena Stewart describes her mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Rowena Stewart describes her maternal grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Rowena Stewart describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Rowena Stewart describes her stepfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Rowena Stewart describes her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Rowena Stewart describes her earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Rowena Stewart recalls going to school with her grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Rowena Stewart recalls her grandmothers' homes
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Rowena Stewart recalls her home in Jacksonville's Durkeeville section
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Rowena Stewart describes her schools in Jacksonville, Florida
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Rowena Stewart recalls Mary McLeod Bethune's visits to her elementary school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Rowena Stewart recalls the influence of her paternal grandmother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Rowena Stewart describes Stanton Senior High School in Jacksonville
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Rowena Stewart recalls her extracurricular activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Rowena Stewart describes her childhood friends
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Rowena Stewart describes the sights and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Rowena Stewart talks about urban renewal
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Rowena Stewart remembers the Ku Klux Klan in Orangeburg, South Carolina
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Rowena Stewart recalls marrying Clarence Johnson
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Rowena Stewart recalls her mother's reaction to her marriage
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Rowena Stewart describes her children
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Rowena Stewart recalls finishing her degree at Edward Waters College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Rowena Stewart recalls finding work with the help of Melvin King
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Rowena Stewart remembers Boston's United South End Settlements
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Rowena Stewart describes her work at Boston's Harriet Tubman House
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Rowena Stewart describes her work in Connecticut and South Carolina
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Rowena Stewart recalls becoming interested in history
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Rowena Stewart recalls her work to memorialize the 1st Rhode Island Regiment
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Rowena Stewart remembers founding the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Rowena Stewart describes her legacy at the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Rowena Stewart describes the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Rowena Stewart recalls visiting museums in West Africa
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Rowena Stewart recalls directing the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Rowena Stewart describes the exhibits at the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Rowena Stewart recalls her difficulties while developing the Motown Museum
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Rowena Stewart describes her oral history project in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Rowena Stewart recalls establishing the Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Rowena Stewart describes her museum career in Kansas City, Missouri
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Rowena Stewart describes the 18th and Vine Authority project
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Rowena Stewart describes the 18th and Vine Authority museums
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Rowena Stewart describe her retirement in Jacksonville, Florida
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Rowena Stewart talks about American Beach, Florida
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Rowena Stewart reflects upon the state of African American museums
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Rowena Stewart describes the impact of tourism on African American museums
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Rowena Stewart talks about African American museum professionals
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Rowena Stewart reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Rowena Stewart describes her plans for the future
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Rowena Stewart shares her advice for aspiring museum professionals
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Rowena Stewart describes her legacy and how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Rowena Stewart narrates her photographs