Pathway to Freedom
JESSICA NGBOR | 1/30/2015, 6 p.m.
The Dallas Examiner
The Pathway to Freedom Historical Traveling Exhibit celebrated its grand opening on Jan. 15 as part of a kick-off for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration. This exhibit is a flashback through time and focuses on details of Black history that are not commonly discussed.
Inspired by a trip to tour historical places across the South, the exhibit was created by a group of students mentored by Yolanda Davis. The students also visited Washington, D.C., during their tour. The group wanted to have something in Dallas that put together events of Black history, including the Underground Railroad, The Trail of Tears and the Civil Rights Movement. They were required to research terms of the Civil Rights Movement and read a total of 35 books.
The exhibit begins with the Civil Rights Movement. A board displays pictures from the Montgomery Boycott, Freedom Summers and Bloody Sunday. The exhibit also has a list of popular terms used in this era such as sit-in, prejudice and discrimination. Among the list is also the term “Bombingham,” a popular name for Birmingham, Alabama, because of the high number of bombings in the city. Between the years of 1957 and 1963 there were 18 unresolved bombings.
The exhibit also pays homage to the Little Rock Nine who were the first African American students to attend Central High School after Brown v. Board of Education ruled, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
Another part of the exhibit includes routes of the Freedom Riders and the March on Washington. It also emphasizes that not only were African American adults fighting for their rights, but students were on the front lines fighting too. They were actively involved in seeking such rights as being able to attend any college of their choice, trying on clothes in department stores, and reading books in the library.
Part of the exhibit presented the McLeod Plantation – a former slave plantation that was overtaken by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. After the war, it was occupied by African American soldiers and served as a hospital. As time passed, a Freedmen’s Bureau opened within the main house and provided space for newly freed slaves to stay until the McLeod family regained possession of the plantation. In 1990, the landowner died and the plantation was left to the Historic Charleston Foundation.
The Underground Railroad is the next stop. This hiding and escape routes for enslaved Africans went through Indian villages. The exhibit displays a hand-made quilt with different patterns and colors that signifies the story of the Underground Railroad. There is also a real sack of cotton that was obtained in Mississippi.
In the Trail of Tears section is a painting of a slave next to a Native American. During George Washington’s era, a civilization program was implemented to convert Indians culturally into White men, so they could own slaves as well. Over 60,000 Indians and 15,000 Africans were part of this 44-year journey when Native Americans were forced to give up their lands east of the Mississippi River and migrate to Oklahoma.
As a grand finale of the history-filled exhibit, there is a section that presents African Americans’ inventions, such as: ice cream, the remote control, the traffic light, guitar, dust pan and many more.
This exhibit is open until March 5 at the MLK Center, located at 2922 Martin Luther King Blvd.