Proud to be
Married to Our Heritage
The Burnett-Eaton Museum Foundation is located in the heart of the Wilmington, NC Historic District. The museum welcomes an inclusive learning environment and is charged with the responsibility for preserving history. It is through exhibits, archives, publications, events, lectures, artifacts, and antiquities by which stories are told. The museum collaborates with its community and other organizations to promote understanding and appreciation of diverse heritage in New Hanover County and abroad.
Founder & Executive Director
Islah Speller is a native of Wilmington, NC. She attended New Hanover High School and Cape Fear Community College, where she furthered her education in the medical field. Ms. Speller is a National Certified Health Unit Coordinator, Medical/Clinical Assistant, and a member of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. She has worked in specialty areas of health care for the past 27 years.
She served the community in many volunteer roles, including as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the New Hanover County Blue Ribbon Commission. She currently serves on the NHC Adult Care Home CAC and is a certified Community Advisory Committee Volunteer for the NC Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. She has also served on the Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence. Ms. Speller spearheaded a unique initiative providing affordable housing to the underserved. Her activism to restore African-American history to our community began in 1996, when she began a ten-year campaign to rebuild community and stop violence. She has overcome many challenges to make this happen, including competing with pressure from developers to preserve the history of her neighborhood, investing thousands of hours of research to recapture the history, locating and purchasing authentic artifacts to exhibit in the museum, raising funds on her own, and overcoming the stigma of establishing a museum in a low-income part of town.
Thanks to her dedication and with the support of her husband and foundation co-founder, D. Damiyr Speller, her brother and co-founder, the late Darryl E. Goodwin, and Friends of Community Hospital aided in the support of the Burnett-Eaton Museum Foundation, a nonprofit opened in Dec. 2006 dedicated to empowering community through education about African–American history, which also received the Public Organization of the Year award in 2008 by the MPA Program at UNCW. She is a recipient of the 2011 YWCA Cape Fear Women of Achievement award (Rachael Freeman Unsung Hero). She served on the Historic Wilmington Foundation Plaque Committee. In 2017, she gave a African–American walking tour with C-Span city tour staff which can be viewed on C-Span.org. Islah was awarded a Trailblazer Certificate of Recognition by the historic St. Stephen AME Church in 2020.
Islah has been building and curating the museum, preserving history, and building capacity for 15 years. Her community involvement and dedication is building community cohesion.
Our goal is to establish and maintain a museum that will provide an appropriate setting to display items, photographs, documents, letters, artifacts, etc. detailing African-American history and events. The Burnett-Eaton Museum Foundation will create an atmosphere of interest and appreciation for history to the public by giving them the opportunity to view historical roots; furthermore achieving an identity for African-Americans to become active in preserving history. The Burnett-Eaton Museum will educate and raise the self-esteem of what African-Americans were forced to go through and instill pride and respect so that all Americans will have a better life together.
Violence Prevention Goals
To increase alternatives and enhance student and community awareness on the influence on their perception of violence the media holds
To teach participants how to test media presentation and peer pressure against reality
To raise self-esteem through respect, creativity, and interactive arts (silk screening, dance, entertainment/sound studio, etc,) to encourage community participants
To promote and develop summer youth training and jobs, and to observe "Anti-Violence Day in the Park Concert"
To create fundraisers for the Burnett-Eaton High School Scholar/College Sophomore Program, to obtain a building to operate the activities, and to create an environment for reconciliation