Black people are making history every day, and celebration of our legacy cannot be restricted to one month. And the pandemic may have made it more difficult for large amounts of people to safely gather together in public spaces and honor Black History this February. So the New York-based cultural group The Creative Collective NYC teamed up with BLK HST to create a free 3-D virtual exhibit called “BLK HST: Reclaiming Our Stories.”
From the convenience of your computer or phone, you can move around the three-room virtual exhibit and learn more about African Americans who have contributed to the wealth of our nation’s culture. Visitors will be able to interact with one another, and you can even turn on your cameras and microphones to make the experience more true-to-life.
Some of the dozens of luminaries covered in the exhibit include:
- James Baldwin: African American essayist, novelist, and activist whose works tackled the intersectionalities of race, sexual orientation, and class, particularly in 1950s and 60’s Black America. His semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It On the Mountain is considered an indispensable part of the Black American literary canon and American literature overall;
- Thelma Johnson Streat: artist, dancer, and educator who became the first African American woman to have her work displayed in the Museum of Modern Art. The Ku Klux Klan made threats on her life for another one of her most provocative paintings, “Death of a Negro Sailor,” which depicts a Black sailor being hung after having risked his life abroad to defend the same democratic rights he was denied back home;
- Doris A. Davis: the first African American woman to be elected mayor of a U.S. metropolitan city, Compton in 1965. Eight years prior, Davis had already achieved another milestone by successfully campaigning to win the position as the city’s first Black clerk; and
- Matthew Alexander Henson: African American explorer and craftsman who was the second-in-command for Robert E. Peary’s 1909 expedition to the North Pole and arguably the first person ever to reach it.
Kayla Tunstall, the founder of BLK HST, addressed the discrepancy between how American history is taught versus the history of America, especially when it comes to the traumas of BIPOC:
“Education in America overall desperately needs a revamp, but when it comes to the subject of history, the events that this country chooses to omit is dangerous. I believe that history is one of the most important subjects taught because, without it, other subjects have no context… Lessons of the “first Thanksgiving,” the American Revolution, and countless other events are told in a way that rarely focuses on the barbaric aspects that led to these happenings, like removing the Indigenous people from their land and claiming independence for all people, but enslaving millions of Africans.”
With their shared message, the exhibit’s organizers want to ensure that the larger narrative of positive African-American contribution is not lost or diminished. “Although all of the unique stories in this exhibit might not be often heard, their contributions should be honored. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we are thankful for all the doors they opened for us,” they write.
You can check out the virtual exhibit and learn about some fantastic African Americans’ contributions by clicking here.