Bringing history into focus at the Black History Museum

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Snapshots and pictures from more than a century are helping to tell the story of the African-American experience here in the region. It’s a new exhibition at the Black History Museum called “Yesterday’s Stories, Today’s Inspiration.”

“We hear a lot about enslavement and the slave trade, we don’t really hear as much about the free black experience as we should,” says exhibit curator Elvatrice Belsches.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this new exhibition “Yesterday’s Stories, Today’s Inspiration” has thousands and thousands of things to say.

The collection of private images from families, churches, educational organizations and other museums gives visitors a glimpse into everyday life for blacks in Richmond over many decades.

“One of the things that excites me the most is you’ll get a look at the early black educational experience,” Belsches added.

You’ll also find a scan of the papers from 1852 for George Lewis Ruffin, a free man of color. Seventeen years later, he would become the first black graduate of Harvard Law. Later, he would serve as a judge and Boston City Councilman.

The folds and wrinkles representing the many times the paper was pulled out and shown to authorities and then tucked safely away again.

Many everyday images and some professional photos by prominent early 19th-century African American photographers, all combining to bring history into focus.
“There are a myriad of stories here that will really resonate with people” says Belsches. The exhibit is a work in progress, you can submit photos to help expand the exhibit.   There’s more information here. 

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