Saturday, September 24, 2016

This is our story. It must be told - Lily's Blackboard

This is our story. It must be told - Lily's Blackboard:

This is our story. It must be told

President Barack Obama, with first lady Michelle Obama and Ruth Odom Bonner, center, ring the bell opening the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Barack Obama, with first lady Michelle Obama and Ruth Odom Bonner, center, ring the bell opening the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on the National Mall September 24, and it was years in the making. (Well, 600, if you want to get technical.)
The museum—which is the last that will be built on the National Mall—came after decades of work by people who believed that African Americans ‘legacy and contributions should be enshrined in a public space. It began, as many achievements do, as the dream of visionaries with the spirit to “plant trees whose shade they knew they would never sit in.”
 As far back as the early 1900s, activists were pushing for such a museum. President Hoover in 1929 appointed civil rights leaders, including Mary McLeod Bethune, to a commission that would study the idea and raise money for it. But something else happened in 1929 that helped doom the effort (which probably never had much of a chance anyway, given the times): The stock market crashed, and the Great Depression began.
Over the next decades, proposals would emerge in Congress, only to die. Ultimately, historians and private citizens, with the late Rep. Mickey Leland and Rep. John Lewis, helped push the idea across the finish line. They overcame opposition from some who worried that a national museum would take support away from smaller, local African American museums, and others (including Smithsonian leaders) who felt like African-American culture and contributions should be relegated to a wing of an existing museum. And of course, there was the hostility of the late Sen. Jesse Helms to the idea.
President George W. Bush in 2003 signed legislation authorizing the museum.  Then the work to fund raise and build the collection—which includes more than 36,000 artifacts—began in earnest. (The NEA was a contributor.)  The Smithsonian’s 19th museum represents a tremendous opportunity for teaching and learning, and school group tours are available. But you don’t even have to visit the National Mall to make use of it.
The museum was the very first of the Smithsonian’s offerings to have an online presence before it actually opened. Those plentiful resources are perfect for classroom lessons and discussions. You can also take a virtual guided tour.
Of course, much of the museum’s collection touches on our painful history of slavery and discrimination; the triumphs are on display, but so are the horrors and the pain. 
There are shackles, a 19th century slave cabin and other implements of slavery. Graphic descriptions and photos. Wreckage from a slave ship.  The casket that held 14-year-old Emmett Till’s body.
There is also the Greensboro, N.C. Woolworth’s counter where college students staged a sit-in in 1960. The plane used to train the Tuskegee Airmen who flew during World War II. Jesse Owens’ cleats from the 1936 Olympics. The jacket and skirt Marian Anderson wore when she performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And so much more.
For schoolchildren, touring the Mall’s newest museum will be an educational journey through the historical lens of black life in America,” notes a recent Washington Post article. “It also will mean helping This is our story. It must be told - Lily's Blackboard:


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