While this short video was created for our photography exhibit, "As If We Weren't There, " in 2013, its message serves as inspiration for our current museum:
African American History is American History, the history of all of us.
I remember as a young child hearing "You can be anything you want, if you put your mind to it." Growing up in the household of Clyde and Kathryn Nelson, in St. Louis, Missouri, I learned to believe in this. I believed it because my parents were living proof. Through the Depression, living in the segregated south and being raised in single parent households, both graduated from college and graduate school and had successful, meaningful careers.
As an elementary school educator for 31 years, now retired, I have lived long enough to know that the challenge still rings true for children today. At this pivotal moment in our country's history, children can set goals and strive to be anything they put their minds to.
It was part of my own history that lead me to create a Hands On History Museum for the students and educators at the learning community where I worked. The museum highlights the many accomplishments of African Americans in our country's history. The museum has transitioned from being a physical place into a tool to assist educators in learning how to share African American history with young learners. The museum is a collection of books, posters, videos, activities, and historical memorabilia. Presentations are available for school, church, and community groups. These presentations challenge educators and students to think about their own place in history and help them to envision how their goal setting and decision making frames them in the next chapter of our country’s history.
The museum was hosted by one elementary learning community for Black History Month.
Young learners experienced first hand, artifacts, memorabilia, posters, books, and a variety of hands-on activities to learn about the accomplishments of African Americans.
The museum provided guest speakers a venue to share their personal experiences with learning communities.
The focus is still primarily on young learners, but now provides a smaller, more intimate version of the museum. Focusing on one to five African Americans per presentation, the museum travels to different schools and communities.
Presentations consist of story-telling with posters, artifacts, and follow-up activities.
The museum has provided teacher education, helping teachers incorporate African American history throughout their curriculum, beyond Black History Month.
The museum has installed a variety of exhibits celebrating Black History Month at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis.