As an African-American woman in her 60s, Jennings said she has lived the struggle that today’s youth know nothing about. She decided to bring it to the forefront with the Sankofa African-American Museum on Wheels. The museum will be on display until 1 p.m. today in the Union.
Sankofa is a word of the Twi language of the West African country of Ghana meaning “go back and get it.” With artifacts and memorabilia tracing from the year 1860 to the present, historian and curator of the museum Angela W. Jennings has done just that.
“The public school systems just don’t do it justice,” Jennings said. “I figured somebody has to do it justice and that’s why I decided to do this museum.”
Jennings’ interest in shedding light upon the struggle of African-Americans peaked when she realized she did not want her nephew to graduate from high school with no knowledge of self.
She said she believes teaching youth about the struggles their ancestors faced could have eliminated many more recent pervading cultural issues.
“Had we shown our young boys and young men the shackles that were worn during slavery, they would not be shackled the way they are in prison cells today,” Jennings said. “Those are the very same shackles used during slavery. Teach them the struggle. Show them the struggle.”
Jennings’ desire to share such knowledge resulted in her travel of the world, acquiring relics along the way that possess historical and cultural significance to African Americans and their journey from slavery, to the Civil Rights movement, to the creation of inventions and goods that would eventually be used on a daily basis by people all over.
The traveling exhibit, which has features dating as far back as authentic whips, chains and receipts of purchase during the slavery era, also displays progression and celebrates the social movements, literary works and inventions that would not have been possible without the African-Americans who created them.
Director of the Student Union Bradley Baker said he is happy to co-sponsor and host such an exhibit at the center of the campus, a place he feels is a great location for the event because of the high traffic of students hanging out and eating in the Union.
“I know that the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement did a great job in planning for Black History Month and trying to present different events that would appeal to all students,” Baker said. “This is one event that has gone to different universities and something that the Student Union is excited to partner with. It’s very important to be on campus because it does a great job of capturing the history of African Americans.”
For students like senior general studies major Jamie Thomas, who could not help but feel a sense of pain in response to the reality of the tough times of African-American people, still expressed being glad to have the chance to go and view the exhibit.
“I liked it a lot,” Thomas said. “I can take away the fact that there is documentation out there that was kept so neatly and in good condition about my history.”
Jennings said she just wants it to be an educational experience for everyone.
“Learn the contributions that blacks have made to this society,” she said. “That’s what they need to take from it.”