Closed for almost 3 years, the Howard County Center of African American Culture reopened Tuesday in Columbia

Dozens celebrated the reopening Tuesday of the Howard County Center of African American Culture in Columbia, which had remained closed for nearly three years.

Visitors make their way into the Howard County Center of African American Culture for its reopening ceremony on Tuesday, February 28, 2023.

Flooding caused by a burst pipe in the center’s ceiling originally caused a temporary closure, then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, creating further obstacles to reopening.


For more than three decades, the center’s mission has been to engage the community, promote progress and transform lives through culture, history and awareness, according to its website.

Founded in 1987 by the late Wylene Sims Burch, a former educator who had a passion for collecting African-American cultural artifacts, the center is an independent nonprofit, educational organization.


Nat Alston, executive director of the center, said he hopes to engage community members of all ages.

“We’ve instituted what I’ve called a, ‘K to gray’ concept and that’s the letter ‘K’ meaning young people, to ‘gray,’ our seniors, and giving them hopefully an enriching opportunity to see the artifacts as well as looking at oral histories,” he said.

Visitors to the center can tour three exhibits: “African Diaspora Experience,” “Citizenship, Civil Rights and the Struggle For Human Rights” and “Geography of Resistance: Underground Railroad and Network To Freedom,” which focuses on the Underground Railroad network to freedom that extends through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey with a special emphasis on Howard County, according to the website.

Additionally, the center will serve as a place to host events, meetings and trainings as well as a space to for the community to feel empowered, grow and heal.

Curator Marcus “Sankofa” Nicks said he hopes the center will serve as a resource to the community for years to come.

“We want people to know they can go to us [as an] authority and a credible source of information based on the history of African Americans in Howard County and beyond,” he said. “We want to be a beacon of inspiration that transforms lives and to share a rich history of triumph and perseverance and resilience of African Americans in Howard County.”

Visitors can tour the center at 5434 Vantage Point Road on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. For more information, visit