Black History 101 Mobile Museum Visits Campus

Jocelyn Buggy ‘22

News Editor

On Thursday, February 13, the Black History 101 Mobile Museum was displayed in the Hogan Ballroom from 10a.m. to 3p.m. This exhibit, one of the many events put on by the College of the Holy Cross in honor of Black History Month, was sponsored by the Black Student Union.  Students and professors from a wide range of class years and departments came to view the display. This was the organization’s second time at Holy Cross, having previously visited in February 2016.

The Black History 101 Mobile Museum is a traveling table-top exhibit featuring over 7,000 black history artifacts. Founded in 1997 by Dr. Khalid el-Hakim, the Detroit-based organization has visited 40 states and over 500 institutions to share the story of black history, from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to modern hip hop culture. Dr. el-Hakim, who received his doctorate from the College of Education at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, began collecting artifacts of black history as a college student. When he later became a middle school teacher, Dr. el-Hakim used these artifacts in his lessons as a way to engage his students with the topics they were learning about. Over the past two decades, his collection has flourished into what is now the renowned Black History 101 Mobile Museum.  

The exhibit was structured as a historical continuum with approximately 250 artifacts covering three long tables in a U-shape. Visitors were encouraged to begin at the leftmost table with the oldest artifacts, such as a newspaper article from 1806 about the burning of a freemen’s schoolhouse in Memphis, TN.  As they walked from table to table, visitors were able to view pieces from different time periods and movements significant to black history. Represented in these artifacts was slavery and racist memorabilia, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s career, black politicians such as Nelson Mandela and Shirley Chisholm, black arts movements, and more. The end of the exhibit featured more recent displays, including a special inauguration issue of Ebony magazine from February 2009 featuring Barack and Michelle Obama.  

At present, the Black History 101 Mobile Museum has three exhibits circulating around the United States. The collection that visited Holy Cross was overseen by the organization’s Director of Community Outreach, Mr. Duminie Deporres, and Regional Director, Mr. Omari Barksdale.  Both men are Detroit-based and were available to answer questions from students and faculty about specific pieces on display, as well as the Black History 101 Mobile Museum as a whole.

When asked what he hoped the Holy Cross community would learn from attending the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, Mr. Omari Barksdale said: “The view of black America is typically very one-dimensional and monolithic. Americans tend to know the names of three black people: Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and either Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman. And the only movement that gets talked about is the Civil Rights movement, but we’ve had a lot of movements.  So what I would hope is that, as we are in the middle of Black History Month, people will stop treating February as the only time they should learn black history.” Overall, the event encouraged visitors to pursue their own research on issues of black history. In this sense, Black History Month can be used as a time to reflect upon one’s previous 11 months of learning.

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