Blog Post

My Experience at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Note:  This was a trip that I field trip that I took my Math For Education students on during the Winter 2012 semester.  The original reason for the visit is that we were promised that there would be a display about African American Mathematicians at the museum.  However, that display was not there.  My students were asked to leave the group, just as I was.

On Saturday, March 24, 2012, I attended the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.  I didn’t know what to expect before I attended the museum.  The only African American History that I can ever remember learning about is through textbooks, television, the Internet, and through African American History Month activities that were done in school.  I had ever been fully immersed in an entire exhibit solely dedicated to African American History.  I didn’t know if I would agree or disagree with the viewpoint of what was presented in the exhibit, I didn’t know who to expect to see at the museum – people from the city of Detroit or a lot of out-of-town visitors to the city, and I didn’t know if I would even be interested in what the exhibit had to offer.  However, I decided to attend the museum anyway, with an open mind to learning new ideas and becoming more educated about African American History that I didn’t know before.  This is why I was very disappointed when I encountered a staff member at the museum who didn’t seem as open to sharing her ideas with me as I was open to learning ideas from her.

During my trip to the museum, there was a guided tour group walking in front of me in the exhibit.  The group was so large that at certain points during the exhibit, it was impossible to see all of the wonderful displays within the exhibit because the crowd was so large.  So, I stayed back behind the tour group, and unintentionally started listening in on the tour group.  I started to become very excited because I realized that I was learning more about African American History by listening in on the guided tour than I would have learned by walking through the museum on my own.  I was impressed by the tour guide’s knowledge of the exhibit and about African American History in general, and I was intrigued by the tour guide’s unique take on the world and history as she saw it.  The tour guide was very motivational in helping me to realize that everyone is unique and special in their own way and that we all deserve to have our story heard.

The unfortunate part, though, is that about a quarter of the way through the exhibit, the tour guide asked me to separate myself from the group and to go ahead of the group because I was no longer welcome to listen in on the tour, intentional or unintentional, because I had not paid for the guided tour.  In all honestly, I would have been more than willing to pay for the guided tour of the exhibit, but it was never given to me as an option.  I would have been more than willing to quietly remain at the back of the group, as I had been the entire time, to listen and learn more about African American History.  As I already mentioned, I learned more about African American History from the few minutes that I spent listening to this tour guide than I have ever learned in my entire life and this tour guide had me energized me enough to want to learn even more.

However, after telling me to get lost and to separate me from the rest of the group, I’m not sure I’ll ever be as open to learning about African American History as I was the day of Saturday, March 24, 2012, ever again in my entire life.  I know it is a part of history that I still want to learn more about.  I know that there are many African American men and women who have made significant contributions to the world as we know it that I simply don’t know enough about.  But I lost something the day that I encountered someone that wasn’t as willing to share ideas with me as I was willing to listen to share her ideas with me.


Link to Photos that I took at the Museum

By Jon Oaks

College Math Instructor. Tech Enthusiast. Visionary. Creative Genius. But above all, I enjoy what I do. That is why I am a teacher. Because I like to teach.

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