Mission & History

African American musicians and dancer perform at historic site


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


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


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.” Michelle Lanier, then Curator of Multicultural Initiatives for the Division of State Historic Sites, led the team that created the AAHC. She was named Acting Director of the NC African American Heritage Commission in 2008, which she served in tandem with her Curator role for several years.

In 2011, the AAHC was moved from the NC Office of Archives & History to the NC Arts Council (NCAC) to establish their African American Heritage Development initiative. Here, the AAHC established initiatives like Freedom Roads, and projects like The Gathering Place Project. Michelle Lanier was named Director of the AAHC in 2012. 

The AAHC was moved from the NCAC in the summer of 2017 to become a Division of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Michelle Lanier was named Executive Director of the division. She was joined by Angela Thorpe and Sylvia West, who currently serve as Associate Director and Constituent Affairs Liaison, respectively.


Sustainability | Develop a plan for financial and leadership sustainability for the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission and its work;

Public Awareness | Foster public awareness through media, publications, and face-to-face contact.

Recognition | Identify people, places, themes, and programs that help shape North Carolina’s African American heritage;

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

The AAHC's guiding value is to be responsive to community needs and voices.