By Dan Murphy
A longtime veteran of Boston public broadcasting was recently named executive director of the Museum of African American History, Boston and Nantucket (MAAH).
Raised outside of Philadelphia in Lincoln University, Pa., Marita Rivero began producing public-affairs programming for WGBH-TV in 1970 after graduating from Tufts University. Rivero’s early credits included “Say Brother” (now “Basic Black”), and her projects have since received numerous major production awards, including Peabody and Emmy awards for WGBH/PBS’ “Africans in America, a History of Slavery.”
Rivero went on to serve as vice president and general manager of WPFW-FM Pacifica in Washington D.C., where she successfully grew a fledgling operation into a venerable jazz and public-affairs station that won numerous accolades for its community-based programs and services.
Rivero returned to Boston in 1988 to head WGBH Radio, eventually rising to the rank of vice president and general manager for radio and TV at WGBH before retiring in 2013. She stayed on for two more years, however, in the role of senior advisor to WGBH at the station’s urging.
Soon after returning to Boston in the late ‘80s, Rivero began volunteering at the MAAH. Since then, she has served on the museum’s board of directors for numerous years, and currently chairs the board of trustees of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She stepped into the role of interim executive director in November when her predecessor, Beverly Morgan-Welch, left the museum to become associate director of external affairs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
“Beverly built such a wonderful platform, including educational programs, events and helping to establish the museum’s civic place in the Boston community,” Rivero said. “We’re really looking forward to expanding on this.”
The museum has stewardship over two Beacon Hill landmarks – the African Meeting House and the Abiel Smith School, which Rivero hopes will continue to grow as community resources for the neighborhood.
“We’ve had relationships with the Beacon Hill Civic Association and individuals over many years,” Rivero said. “We like to be a good neighbor, and we’re open to new ideas. We hope also people on Beacon Hill will continue to attend events at the museum.”
She added, “What a wonderful neighborhood Beacon Hill is. Personally, I’m having lot of fun exploring it on foot.”
On deck at the museum for the summer is “Picturing Frederick Douglass,” an exhibit of more than 100 images of the pioneering abolitionist taken between 1841 and 1895.
“Some will be fun, and some of it scholarly,” Rivero said of the museum’s upcoming programming. “It’s an invitation to think about where we are today and what our history has taught us.”
Meanwhile, Rivero views the museum and its rotating exhibits as a testament to Boston’s role in the nation’s history.
“Boston has contributed to American Democracy in two critical ways – the American Revolution, and we are the heart of movement to abolish slavery,” Rivero said. “These two movements are two critical lynchpins in American Democracy.”