Primary school celebrates black history month with museum - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Primary school celebrates black history month with museum

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Today begins Black History Month, and a new museum opens at the Franklin School in Blytheville to celebrate Black History and the Blytheville area.

Vera James founded the museum with a purpose. "There's not anything in Blytheville to let our younger people know the history of Blytheville. And you cannot have Blytheville history unless you talk about the Black people that lived in Blytheville and the contributions they made."

What has grown from a casual idea has developed into a collection of African-American history from ancient times until today.  James has gathered items that celebrate the rich history of African-Americans in the Delta and the country at large.

Besides the cultural history of the community around Blytheville you're also going to learn about the technological contributions like the lantern. Carefully labeled are items that can trace their roots back to their African American inventors.

James, "The ironing boards and the ringer-type wash machines and different things that people created, patented and got credit for. Then some of the things they created and did not get credit for."

For now, the museum resides in the old Franklin Primary School. Eventually James says, she would like it to move.

James, "My dreams are to have a Black History Museum on Ash Street."

From the 30's to the 60's Ash Street was the hub of the Blytheville African-American community. It even had its own mayor. James said that street and those that lived and worked there need to be remembered.

James, "We didn't all work in the cotton fields. We wasn't all tractor drivers and whatever. That we had people back in the 40's and the 50's and the 20's and the 30's that actually were business owners as well." She told me about the doctors and dentists and other successful business people as well as times when she would come to town from Dell, buy new clothes and change in the bus depot to go visit the clubs along Ash.

James and her co-workers have done a lot of research to put this museum together. I asked her what was the most surprising thing she has learned so far. " How many inventions that African Americans have made and what wasn't taught in schools."

James, "The contributions that African American People have made. Not just to the country but to Blytheville itself."

James says she is always on the lookout for items and pictures of the African-American community in the Blytheville area.

If you have anything you would like to submit... Or if you would like to visit the museum, call her at 870-762-6128.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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