As part of black history month we are highlighting different places around the country that have stories that may never have been told before about African Americans in our history.
Today, Tamara Scott is showing you inside the Forgotten Solider Exhibition at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
The idea behind the exhibit is to shift your gaze. Curators like Kate Egner Gruber say that was their idea when putting it together.
“We’re trying to tell a more complete story of the American Revolution. We’re trying to tell stories that have been forgotten since the American Revolution and tell a more holistic, more complete story,” said Kate Egner Gruber, Curator, Forgotten Solider Exhibition at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
When you first walk in, you’re greeting by a timeless photo of the Boston massacre, but then your eyes are guided to Crispus Attucks, a man of mixed race who is believed to be the very first martyr.
The theme continues as you move forward.
“I love that you walk into the gallery and you see these artifacts and you’re immediately confronted with this plantation slave quarter landscape,” said Gruber.
Paintings and rare documents highlight what the experience was for African Americans and the decisions they had to make.
“Sometimes they’re making choices given very little time, little information, and they have to act very, very quickly. Then, of course, live with the consequences of whatever those choices were,” said Gruber.
Gruber explained that for many this option was alluring, but later would provide unfulfilling for most.
Deeper into the exhibit you will see important documents that describe what it meant for African Americans when the war was said and done and the British army had lost, including a woman named Mary Perth.
“Mary Perth, she is 43 and she is described as a stout wench. You see here again that she came from John Willowbe in Norfolk, Virginia and she left him seven years ago,” said Gruber.
Stories like this fill the gallery and disclose many names and faces that you may never have heard of before in history books. Gruber says you won’t realize how much you need to know until you’re here.
“We want our visitor to walk out of this gallery and take this new tool kit, this new idea of shifting the gaze into the permanent gallery into other museums and into their everyday life. We want our visitors to learn how to see things that they hadn’t seen before, to look beyond the known and look into the unknown and hopefully have a more complete understanding of our past,” said Gruber.
Hidden History is sponsored by UPMC Hamot.