Mobile Museum Puts a Spotlight on African American History

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Chains and shackles. A Ku Klux Klan hood. Black face makeup. ‘Black Lives Matter’ stickers. These are some of the striking items in the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, which made a stop at Moore February 28 in celebration of Black History Month.

“The importance of putting this together is to tell stories that have been omitted from textbooks and narratives that are not included in some of our major museums,” said Khalid el-Hakim, the founder of the mobile museum. “It’s important to fill in these gaps.” El-Hakim's visit was sponsored by Student Services and Educational Support Services.

El-Hakim, born and raised in Detroit, has been collecting the hundreds of items since 1991. He has been traveling nationally with the museum since 2006. One of his earliest pieces is from the 1700s – a deed belonging to Wentworth Cheswell, considered by some historians to be the first African American elected to public office in the United States in 1768.

“The idea is for people to see themselves in history, to see themselves presently, and to think about what side of history they want to be on,” he said. “And as folks who are making history right now, how do we make a better future?”

 

SHOCKING AND DISTURBING

The pieces were displayed chronologically, starting with the shackles, which el-Hakim said came from a plantation in North Carolina, and ended with a GQ magazine cover of football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has become known for refusing to stand during the playing of the U.S. national anthem as a protest against racial injustice. The museum also includes a video showing speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., and audio of rap music.

Kaitlyn Botak, a sophomore Illustration major, found parts of the exhibit disturbing.

“I never really learned about the Ku Klux Klan in school, it was just kind of what I hear on the news, so this is like, wow,” she said.

Sukey Blanc, a former employee in the Philadelphia School District, was very moved after looking at the items, which include books, signs, postcards, album covers, and an autograph from 1968 Olympic bronze medalist John Carlos, who raised a black-gloved fist during the national anthem in support of human rights.

“The images are obviously very powerful and hard to look at, but important to remember,” she said.

Angelica Hue, a senior Fine Arts major, found items that connected her with her family.

“My great-grandparents went to Tuskeegee University, and he has some stuff from there,” she said. “My great-grandfather was at Selma, and it’s nice to see pieces from there.”

Hue said her thesis is about what it is like to be a political leftist organizer in today’s world and beyond.

“It’s good to see museums that are also moving forward,” she said.

 

ACQUISITIONS

El-Hakim said some items in his collection were difficult to acquire, like the KKK hood. He looked through many antique shops to find a white hood and robe, and when he would find one, shop owners wouldn’t sell.

“Being black, they wouldn’t sell it to me,” el-Hakim said, explaining that deceased Klan members’ robes normally are given back to the KKK, so the items don’t fall “into black hands.”

“I had to have a white agent get it for me.”

Published on March 1st, 2018