Beverely Elliott

Executive Director
African American Museum of Southern Arizona

By Romi Carrell Wittman

When Beverely Elliott’s 7-year-old grandson asked if there was a museum to learn about “people who look like me” in Tucson, she was stunned there wasn’t one. 

That inspired her to create the African American Museum of Southern Arizona, on the University of Arizona campus, dedicated to preserving Black history and culture. 

A lifelong educator, Elliott’s mission is to give back to the community. “My parents and grandmother instilled in me the values of faith, education and treating others how you want to be treated,” Elliott said. “They showed through their own sacrifices and service to the community the importance of giving back.”  

Originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., Elliott earned her bachelor’s degree from UArizona and a master’s degree from Prescott College before a multifaceted career as an educator, wife, mother, counselor, humanitarian and community activist. 

Elliott worked tirelessly to get the CROWN Act passed in Arizona, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on hairstyles, and she has worked on removing racist language in Tucson HOA bylaws. Elliott was also the recipient of the Ray Davies Lifetime Humanitarian Achievement Award, annually given by the Educational Enrichment Foundation, to the individual who has dedicated themselves to education in the region.

Described by friends as an “Energizer Bunny,” Elliott has several projects in the works. 

“We’re working to honor trailblazers like Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson,” she said. “We want to dedicate a bench to her in the Tucson Women’s Plaza of Honor.” 

She’s focused on additional museum exhibitions, including one spotlighting slave code quilts. A showcase of the landmark miniseries ‘Roots’ is also on the calendar. 

“Our history gets easily lost or forgotten, so we make it a point to lift up stories of extraordinary achievement and resilience against all odds,” she said. 

Elliott is a member of the American School Counselors Association and a former officer of the National Basketball Wives Association. She is also an executive board member for the Elliott Accounting Group.

 “She has had an incredible impact on the Tucson community,” said JP Roczniak, president and CEO of UArizona Foundation. “Learning changes lives and her passion for education has taken many forms.” 

Her advice to future generations: “If you go into everything with a positive attitude, thinking I’m going to learn from this, it will be a good experience.” 

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