JET Goes to the Museum of African American History

On Thursday, April 18, 2019 Boston Public School Paras of the JET Program visited The Museum of African American History (MAAH) during their school vacation week. The museum is known for its unique displays from some of the nation’s preeminent National Landmarks located in Boston and Nantucket. The museum featured the life and career of Frederick Douglass who was an abolitionist and orator.

The small yet mighty MAAH is a place where you learn a lot about Boston’s early African American community and, simultaneously, learn about the contributions that many people made to advance the cause of dismantling racism and negative stereotyping.

We started the museum tour in the Abiel Smith School where the Frederick Douglass exhibit was on display. On the 2nd floor of the Smith School, there are numerous photos of Douglass displayed wall to wall. He is noted as one of the most photographed Americans of the 19th century. As shown in this exhibit, Douglass was a man who used photographs of himself to eradicate negative images and stereotypes of black people’s looks and intelligence.

After the Douglass exhibit, we visited the African American Meeting House. We listened to a historian talk about the history of the buildings that are now a part of the museum. The meeting house was a place of worship and a place to assemble to address issues that were salient topics of that when Frederick Douglass was a statesman. A place where men, and in particular, women had a voice to speak against slavery, disenfranchisement, human rights, which was quite rare for women during that period

At the end of our lunch, the JET participants took the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about the tour of MAAH. During this time, they shared sentiments such as the following: ‘This museum is a hidden gem.’ ‘I live in Boston and did not know that this museum existed.’ ‘I’m bringing my family to tour this museum.’ ‘I learned a lot in a short period of time.’ ‘I’ve been inspired.’ ‘We need to petition the city or state for a Frederick Douglass street in Boston and New Bedford.’ ‘The museum staff helped me resolve a problem with my essay/research paper.’ These comments indicated that the tour of MAAH was a very good use of our time and a tremendous learning experience.

To say the least, MAAH is an incredible museum and the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. We all left this museum having learned something new and vital about Boston’s early African American community. You must visit this museum, it is totally worth it!

Angela Irving