The NAACP’s Mississippi chapter sponsored the university’s first Black History Wax Museum Wednesday night in Bishop Hall, lending time in the spotlight to a handful of black history’s lesser-known heroes.
Student volunteers dressed to represent black figures across four eras of American history spoke to the more than 80-person audience about their figures’ role in the fight for equal rights.
Junior biology major Gregory Wilson helped organize the event and led the audience through the timeline of black history.
“Let’s go time traveling,” he said as he began the tour.
NAACP President Ty Marino said the event was focused on celebrating the lives of black activists who may be typically skipped over in favor of quoting Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X.
“There would be no MLK without those people,” Marino said. “The small people who book the rooms and make the calls to make things happen.”
The “small” people honored Wednesday night ranged from a rebellious slave to a first lady of the United States. A Jim Crow-era Patti LaBelle even made an appearance, remembering how she and her band snuck in the back doors of the white venues in which they performed.
Junior exercise science major Devante Yates portrayed Robert Smalls, the slave who freed himself and his family by sailing north on a commandeered Confederate ship in 1862.
“I actually had to do a little research,” Yates said. “He was kind of one of those hidden figures.”
Marino said black history was about more than one man or one woman.
“Black history is survival through joy and the redistribution of meaning to places that were meant to serve as mechanisms for oppression,” Marino said.
She said black people have always been fighting for their rights and the movement should be aimed towards the future.
“This isn’t over,” Wilson said. “We’re going to continue to work with our volunteers and the project.”