Dr. Charles Wash, Director Burt Logan, CEO
National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center Ohio History Connection
In light of recent events surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the ensuing protests around the globe, as well as the pockets of violence and vandalism we’ve witnessed around the country, we all must reflect on where we are as a state and nation. We must individually ask ourselves what can I do, or more poignantly, what should I do?
We at the Ohio History Connection believe we are in a very familiar moment. This is a moment we’ve witnessed many times, yet we find ourselves asking the same questions as before. How did we get here and why? When will we finally take stock in the lessons of history and put an end to this cycle once and for all?
African American history here in the state of Ohio details the impact that racism and social policies have had in our communities from the period just before statehood in 1803 to the present. However, that same history details a culture that developed to withstand and persevere in the face of unbelievable circumstances that included discriminatory Black codes and segregation. Those lessons of the past also include incredible collaboration, compassion and empathy among all Ohioans which should be our roadmap for today and beyond.
Unfortunately, what we bear witness to is an incendiary situation, set generations ago, that easily boils over in the face of continued police brutality, systematic failures of the justice system and the weaponization of race (witnessed in the Amy Cooper incident in Central Park, New York). It is incumbent upon Ohioans to dig deeper to recognize and appreciate the full context of what is happening rather than judge from a limited perspective.
We may not have all of the answers we seek in this moment, but a closer examination of Ohio African American history can act as a beacon of light to guide us through this darkness. We encourage you to learn more about this history as Ohio has produced and nurtured some of the most dedicated and compassionate citizens our country has ever seen, and we are compelled to live up to that legacy. It is a legacy of Col. Charles Young, Eliza Bryant, Rev. James Preston Poindexter, Toni Morrison, seven U.S. Presidents and a litany of Civil Rights leaders and cultural icons that shape today’s culture.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once warned us that society would crumble when we all became silent about the things that matter. He stated that, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” He went on to say, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” He told us in no uncertain terms that it isn’t necessarily about what bad people do, but what the well-intentioned fail to do. In this moment we must not fail. We all have a duty to stand up and actively participate in building the more perfect union our ancestors fought so desperately to construct.
The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio is a part of Ohio History Connection’s historic site and museum system.