The efforts of countless African-Americans have shaped the course of American history, both nationally and here in Wayne County.
On Saturday, the Wayne County Museum honored those who have made their mark here at home with the unveiling of a new Black History Month exhibit, alongside the NAACP’s annual quiz bowl.
The exhibit opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, and features information on dozens of African-American organizations and individuals who have helped shape Goldsboro and Wayne County. From older organizations that have since disbanded, such as the Epicurean Civic Club, to relatively recent ones like Rebuilding Broken Places, the exhibit documents the achievements of black people in Wayne County toward making their home a better place.
Jennifer Kuykendall, museum director, said that the exhibit is meant to challenge the notion that Wayne County is a bad place to live.
“The genesis for this, honestly, was the news. The news on TV and in print has been so negative, it’s been so widely reported that the country is divided racially and economically. And then you hear a lot of about how Goldsboro is like the fifth poorest city its size in the country, and you hear a lot about the problems that Goldsboro has,”
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she said. “We wanted to focus on the positives. There is poverty, there are people that are suffering. But there are a lot of people, especially in the black community, that are helping.”
Tina Williams walked around the exhibit on the first floor of the museum, looking at the hundreds of artifacts on display. She had come into the museum to drop off coats for a drive run by Adeen George with the Community Crisis Center, herself a prominently-featured figure in the exhibit.
Williams said she planned to bring her 18-year-old daughter back to see the exhibit.
“It makes me feel really proud. And gosh, I didn’t realize there was so much going on, there’s so many things in Goldsboro that I didn’t realize,” she said.
Williams said she felt the exhibit could help young people like her daughter understand what other black people had done for their community.
“She would understand the importance of what African-Americans have done not only in this community, but in the nation,” she said. “There’s a sense of pride, there’s just so many great things that have been accomplished by people of color.”
Leatrice Whitfield grew up in Seven Springs during segregation. As she looked over the exhibits, she recalled having to go to school in Mount Olive even though white students were allowed to go to the nearby elementary school.
“They had Seven Springs elementary school, and I was like ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’” she said. “We had to go 14 miles on a bus, so I was always used to getting up at the crack of dawn to go to school.”
Whitfield called the exhibit “amazing,” and said she felt a profound sense of pride in what African-Americans have accomplished after suffering under slavery and institutionalized racism for so long.
Meanwhile upstairs, preparations were underway for the annual Black History Month middle school bowl, sponsored by the Wayne County branch of the NAACP. The event poses questions on topics as far back as African-American cultural roots in the U.S. and all the way up to the present day.
They deal with all areas of life for African-Americans — government, education, sports, literature, engineering, science and more — to show the diversity in the culture.
Students from several local middle schools took part. Adriana Gonzalez, 13, is a student at Eastern Wayne Middle. Her school entered the competition late — she had five days to practice — but Adriana decided to enter anyway out of love for the subject.
“History is one of my favorite topics,” she said. “I know that Harriet Tubman was one of the women in black society, and I know about how Martin Luther King did the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”
Chelea Joyner, 14, was one of eight Rosewood Middle School students attending the quiz bowl. She and her team had been practicing several times a week for around a month, she said.
Asked her prediction for the bowl’s outcome, she smiled confidently.
“I have high faith in us,” she said.