Founder of Apex Museum to receive presidential award

When Dan Moore Sr. was a young man, the idea of being the force behind founding an African-American museum never crossed his mind.

The Philadelphia native who adopted Atlanta as his home would become a photographer and filmmaker until the day he began wondering why this city which brought forth leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Benjamin Mays didn’t have a museum highlighting Black achievements. He went to work.

Now the APEX Museum is celebrating its 45th anniversary, and Moore, founder and president of the APEX Museum, is reported to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Joe Biden at an event in October, according to museum leaders.

“I was surprised myself to be honest,” said Moore, 83, who resides in Stone Mountain, of the honor.

The APEX (African-American Panoramic Experience) Museum highlights African-American history and culture and describes itself as “the only museum in Metro Atlanta solely dedicated to the rich and often untold story of people of the African Diaspora.”

Among the exhibits at the APEX: Africa: The Untold Story, The MAAFA (The African Holocaust), and Sweet Auburn Street of Pride.

Moore recalled that when he worked on a banquet honoring Mays, who was president of Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967, he wondered “Who will remember this man 30 years from now. Why doesn’t Atlanta of all the cities have a Black history museum.”

About a month later, Moore started on “an incredible journey” to make it happen.

“When I first started, I knew nothing about museums,” he said. He relied on advice and guidance from others including historians and museum experts.

“It’s interesting, I just know what God has done in my life and some serious miracles,” he said. “I am not a religious person at all. I am a filmmaker.”

One of the miracles is how the museum was able to secure its home in a historic building on Auburn Avenue in the 1970s after first starting in a house on Morris Brown College’s campus.

Moore found a building on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta that was built in 1910 and it had a $2.2 million price tag for the structure and adjacent land, but he was without the means to purchase it. Three days later, he said he got a call from Bill Gibbs, a stranger who said he heard that Moore wanted to secure the property. After a brief meeting in which Moore told him about his plans for a museum, Gibbs, who was moving to Atlanta to take a position with a bank, gave him a check for $2.2 million.

“That’s what God does,” he said.

During the 1960s through 1980s, Moore produced a number of films including “Welcome Home” after his first visit to Liberia in Africa; “The Journey,” narrated by Ossie Davis; and “Sweet Auburn Street of Pride,” narrated by Cicely Tyson.

Moore expresses pride in the APEX Museum being debt free as it reaches its 45th anniversary milestone.

He said the museum is as relevant today as at any time in its history.

“We are about letting people know about Africa,” he said, adding that its mission is to open people’s “minds to who they really are.”

On Aug. 26 Moore and the Apex will be celebrated at a 45th anniversary event from noon to 3 p.m. at the Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. On Oct. 16, Moore is scheduled to receive the presidential Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

The anniversary celebration also kicks off a $30 million capital campaign to fund the next phase in the development of the museum, which Moore described as a “walk through history like EPCOT” with exhibits ranging from ancient Africa to Barack Obama becoming the 44th president.

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