Mission: Preservation

Petworth Library

Mission: Preservation

A Black History Month Program by the Smithsonian African American History Museum

On Friday, Feb. 15, third-graders from Community Academy Public Charter School joined the Petworth Library children's staff for a special visit from Miss Nicole, who is an educator at the Smithsonian African American History Museum.

greenbookdcShe read us Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Ramsey, which tells the story of an African American family traveling from Chicago to Alabama by car in 1952. Along the way, Ruth's family is denied services such as restaurants, hotels and restrooms because of the color of their skin. Eventually they are given a Green Book by a gas station attendant. The Green Book listed services and businesses available to African Americans in the South.

Miss Nicole had a real Green Book that we were very excited to look through. We saw many services available to African Americans in the South and Washington, D.C. Miss Nicole also showed us a "White Only" sign from a swimming pool in Florida, and a sign from a beach in Florida that was popular with African Americans.

cameraAfter we discussed segregation and the difficulties faced by African Americans in the South, we discussed the ways historic artifacts can be damaged (by water, sunlight, pests and wear and tear). The students then put on gloves and worked with authentic artifacts from the 1940s and 1950s, such as a first aid kit, a pocket watch, a teapot, photographs and a camera.

They determined how the objects had been damaged, and what could have been done to prevent the damage. We thought of precious items that we owned that we'd like to preserve for future generations of our families, and how they could be preserved.

The students and staff greatly enjoyed the discussion and being able to handle authentic artifacts. We are thankful to Miss Nicole and the Smithsonian African American History Museum for such a wonderful opportunity.