Museum program helps keep Black History Month alive

By Allison Keyes, WTOP.com

WASHINGTON — The children were bent with faces intent, concentrating on making portraits, murals and puzzles. April Bass, of Leesburg, brought her 11-year-old and 6-year-old out for Black History Month Family Day at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on Saturday.

“We always try to come out to museums to expose them to the different contributions of African Americans,” Bass says. “They need to know where they come from.”

Bass’ 11-year-old daughter, Cora, working on a colorful mural, says she wants to be a designer one day. She also says she learned that black people are very creative.

“Like Langston Hughes,” says Cora Bass. “How he does the poems, he’s really talented at what he does.”

Ulysses Mckinnon says he brought his 4- and 6-year-old daughters out as part of his family’s ongoing effort to keep them informed, so they’ll know their history.

“This morning we were talking about Marcus Garvey,” McKinnon says proudly.

On the way to the exhibition on the bus, the children then told their classmates about Garvey. Born in 1887, He was a leader of the Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanism movements.

“They learn,” says Kimberly McLaughlin, “and they also teach at the same time.”

The program at the Smithsonian included not only art-making activities, but also music. Visitors were invited to take tours of the exhibition Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College. He was an African American artist and university professor born in 1900.

McLaughlin was there with her children as well, and says she came because it seems that history isn’t as important as it was when she was growing up. She says parents have to be involved, because if families don’t teach their children black history the way she learned it, the young people will lose the knowledge.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up