Beginning with a walk through powerful warring African tribes and beautiful Nubian princesses, to the inhumane and disease-riddled confines of the slaver’s ship, trailing through the unforgettable pain and loss yet monumental gain of the Civil Rights Movement, “Sankofa: The African American Museum on Wheels” takes viewers on a journey deep within the folds of African American history.
Angela Jennings, founder of the roving museum, created it for her nephew to learn of his roots and culture.
“I created it for my nephew; I wanted to teach him his history,” said Jennings.
But the true benefit of this museum comes to anyone who enters.
The museum features a vast array of artifacts, literary works and sobering imagery of times not so long ago. The museum also travels globally and Jennings has left her mark on countries such as Kenya, Australia, the United States, France and many more. The frequent travel means Jennings is constantly sporting a large truck full of these priceless pieces herself. In fact, carrying that much history around the world is quite the historical feat.
The museum was set to begin 10:00 am the chilly morning of Jan. 31. Then, the curator carted her curio of African history up to the 3rd story Ballroom of ETSU’s Culp Center; waiting for passing students to venture in.
NAACP founder Ida B. Wells, Fredrick Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr. were all but a few of the great historical names that resonated throughout the museum. Inventions such as the horseshoe, chess, the hairbrush, toilets, guitar, door knobs and spark plugs filled the museum’s tables, all representing their African American inventors who have impacted the lives of every individual on this planet.
Or if that doesn’t peak your interest, perhaps the museum’s telling of the story of young North Carolina college students, such as those at ETSU, taking a stand against Jim Crow by seating themselves at the diner counter with no intention of leaving until they were served. It is stories such as this and so much more that represent the museum.
Fellow ETSU student Farris Darwish shared his personal experience of the traveling gallery. “I thought it was interesting,” said Darwish, “It feels like all that turmoil happened a hundred or two hundred years ago, when in reality it was only a lifespan ago.”
“It really puts things into perspective, and drives home just how hard things were,” continued Darwish.
The museum’s guests will always leave sober, but hopefully not without a spark of desire to take today’s history into their own hands. Angela Jennings plans to add to her collection, and continue the story of African American history and culture.
“I am doing Black Lives Matter next,” said Jennings when asked about the future of the exhibit.
There is no doubt that Jennings will continue to add to her roving museum of history. With Black History Month here, Jennings will constantly be on the move.
If you missed the event, you can expect the traveling museum to venture its way to ETSU sometime spring of 2019 or 2020. Either way, Jennings will return with more pieces of history, fulfilling her mission all the while.
“If we don’t learn history, then we are doomed to repeat it,” said Jennings.
Which is true, but if there is one thing students can take from such a museum, it is that this is African history, this is U.S. history, and this is our history.