In Wilberforce, Ohio, near Dayton, visitors to the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center can learn more about how Jim Crow laws kept African Americans from professional sports, see vivid pictures that show what it was like for African Americans before they received the right to vote in America, learn about African American music, and many other things that affected many Americans. The museum offers a variety of programs exhibits, research and publications, visiting scholars, oral and visual history, and children’s educational activities.
A permanent exhibit, FromVictory To Freedom: Afro-American Life in the Fifties, demonstrates African American experiences in America’s history from 1945 with the ending of World War II, to 1965 with passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. Visitors can learn more about trends, struggles, and social changes that occurred during this period in history. Not only are photographs and artifacts on display, but also life-sized scenes that depict “typical” life during the period. Examples of the life-sized displays include a barber shop, a beauty salon, and a church interior, including pews, pulpit, and choir stand. Recorded speaking voices and gospel music make the exhibit more real. The exhibit also includes clothes, jewelry, consumer and sports equipment, and other items.
In the center of the exhibit in the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center is a small theater, which shows the award-winning 27-minute video, Music as a Metaphor. The video traces the origins African American music its roots in Africa to the 1950’s. Music explored includes protest music, gospel, jazz, bebop, and classical. Featured artists include Fats Domino, Paul Robeson, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.
The fifties exhibition is in a gallery surrounded by a 22-foot photomural, which depicts various aspects of the American way of life in the era. The photomontage mural is compelling and is arranged in sections corresponding to the different settings in the museum, such as family life, education, community and social interactions, entertainment and sports. The mural provides an appropriate backdrop for the remainder of the exhibit. Once visitors leave the gallery they will see exhibits, including dolls, books, clothing, musical instruments and other artifacts which demonstrate the depth and influence of African American history and culture.
The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center is also showing Wilberforce: A Community of Leadership and Learning. The exhibit shows the story of the small Southwest Ohio village which was so important in African American history. Seven Underground Railroads operated in the village, helping thousands of slaves on their way to freedom. The exhibit includes an entertaining video.
The life of Paul Lawrence, a Dayton poet, is explored in an exhibition, Celebrating 100Years: The Life and Legacy of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Artifacts and pictures show the life of the man who wrote poems, short stories, plays, dramatic sketches, and lyrics for musical compositions.
Paul Lawrence was considered the most influential African American poet until Langston Hughes.
Another exhibit at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center is APresence with Impact: Blacks In American Sport, which will be on exhibit through October. African American participation in sports from the colonial period to the present is explored. All levels of sports are examined, from the playground to professional sports.
In addition, A Presence with Impact, features artwork from exceptional artists, such as Emma Amos, Abner Cope, Clifford Darrett, Reginald Gammon, Ron Stephens, and Velma J. Morris. Morris created two pieces especially for the exhibition.
For more information on the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center call 937-376-4944 x 120 or 1-800-752-2603 x 134.