There’s a reason the second word of Black Legacy Project of Wayne County Indiana isn’t “history,” even though that’s what the group has been documenting for the past three years.
“It’s all about the kids. When I came to the museum, I didn’t see anybody that looked like me. I wanted to make a connection,” said project founder Marlene Lindsey. After her work in collecting information about Richmond’s Black history became known, a teacher asked her to put up a bulletin board at her school.
After she did, she saw a young child go past, point at a displayed picture and say, ‘That’s my uncle!’ “That’s what I want to do, instill that sense of pride in our young people,” Lindsey said.
Now the Black Legacy Project has blossomed into a new exhibit at the Wayne County Historical Museum, “Our Legacy: 1800 and Beyond.” Nearly 100 guests celebrated its opening at a premier event on Saturday. Special programs on Sunday marked the public opening. Music featuring drummer Harold Jones, a guest of honor, played while guests ate under a large tent on the museum grounds. Jones later spoke.
Master of ceremonies Carl Rhinehart III, who has assisted with the project nearly from its start, elaborated on Lindsey’s comment. He started a nonprofit called Future Achievers, through which he works with young people who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Many of the students I work with had little hope. Through the work of sister Marlene, they have hope. They can see that we were more than just slaves … we were pillars of the community,” Rhinehart said.
Two events in 2020 motivated her to start the Black Legacy Project, Lindsey said. They were the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, and the start of the COVID pandemic, because it began a series of Zoom conversations between her and her friends about local Black life.
She visited the museum and found that their catalogue of local Black history was in a file folder about an inch and a half thick. She asked the museum staff if they’d work with her to develop this exhibit.
Museum Directory Karen Shank-Chapman remembered Lindsey’s initial visit with her.
“I told her we had not done a good job of preservation of Black history,” Shank-Chapman said.
She credits Lindsey and Black Legacy Project with doing a great deal of the research that has gone into the exhibit, including making connections with people and organizations that could assist.
“Our vision is for people to go through the museum and see and hear the voices of people. From now on, our collection will include parts of this exhibit.”
For her part, Lindsey said. ”I’m just overwhelmed and excited to see it throughout the museum.”
The exhibit includes reproductions of many important documents and photos from Richmond history along with recordings of voices and video, some provided by the documentaries and interviews on WCTV, Richmond’s public access broadcasting station.
Lindsey thanked the community for its help in bringing the exhibit together. Everyone she asked for material or help gave willingly, she said.
She is particularly pleased to include in the exhibit the NASA space suit that was awarded to a Richmond teacher, Mary Davis, who was selected from among thousands of applicants for a space agency training program. She also is pleased to have been able to secure a lot of Richmond sports memorabilia that had not been previously displayed.
Shank-Chapman also noted the display’s military items, including information about World War II Tuskegee Airmen from Richmond and recipients of the Purple Heart. And, she said, there are details of Black-operated businesses.
Jones, a 1958 Richmond High School graduate, spoke during a program after the meal, mentioning that he and Mike Hinshaw, a friend from the 1956-57 RHS golf team, had enjoyed visiting during the evening program.
Jones recalled several local teachers who helped set him on the path to fame. His career continued until the COVID pandemic, playing his final performances for Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.
Rhinehart noted that although Jones hadn’t referred to it, he knew that Jones had not played all of the golf team’s matches because Jones had been prohibited from some golf courses due to the color of his skin. Just seeing the fame that Jones has attained, Rhinehart said, gives him the courage to overcome obstacles in his own life.
And, he said, that kind of inspiration will be the legacy of the Black Legacy Project of Wayne County Indiana.
IF YOU GO
“Our Legacy: 1800 and Beyond,” opened Sunday at the Wayne County Historical Museum, and will continue for a year. Some of the displays will become permanent exhibits at the museum.
The museum is located at 1150 N. A St. in Richmond. Hours are 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon-4 Saturday. Admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors, veterans and active military; $5 for students 6-17; and free for 5 and younger or museum members.
For more information, send email to email@example.com or call 765-962-5756.
A version of this article appeared in the June 28 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.