Turn into the fourth grade hallway at Gloria Marshall Elementary School, just up the stairs and past the school’s signature yellow slide from the second floor to the ground floor, and the Black History Museum is hard to miss.
It lines the majority of the fourth grade hallway, with several segments showing off the work of the school’s 125 fourth graders, with several weeks of research and hard work dedicated to the project.
As principal Shimona Eason points out, the Black History Museum is a first for the school.
“We have a lot of kids with a lot of talent,” Eason said. “I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to highlight our kids, but also our teachers and the hard work they do. I’m really excited and proud that they were able to tie this Black History Museum directly into the curriculum we just implemented at the school.”
The museum celebrates a wide swath of history—from ancient rulers such as Mansa Musa, all the way through to modern-day game changers including Barack Obama and Venus Williams—with plenty of stops in between.
“Because Black history is so immense, I knew that we would have to break this up into pockets,” said Alivia Hardges, a fourth grade teacher at Marshall. “The first exhibit is kings and queens. I know people usually start right away with slavery, but obviously that wasn’t how it all started.”
Those segments include the mentioned Kings and Queens, which features ancient historical rulers, Shackled But Not Shattered, based on the slave trade, Political and Proud, featuring powerful political figures throughout U.S. history, Music and Melanin, highlighting groundbreaking musical artists, Brave and Boundless, figures who have broken barriers and made discoveries, and several more.
It was important for the organizers behind the museum to feature historical figures both well-known as well as those somewhat overshadowed.
“I wanted to make sure and stray away from just the people they hear about all the time,” Hardges said. “We have Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks, of course. But we wanted to highlight the other figures they might not be as familiar with, the others who also made history in their own way.”
Every piece of the museum was directly tied to a piece of the curriculum for the fourth grade students—whether art, history, research and review, or math and science. It was all used to demonstrate to students how Black history is a crucial part of everyday life for everyone, and how deep and rich that history is beyond just the basic facts.
“Hopefully this will be a new tradition,” Eason said. “I think it’s important to celebrate diversity, to make sure that kids know that they are loved. We want them all to know that they belong and that they are a part of the culture and the common thread here at Marshall.”Marshall Elementary is planning to host after-school events for parents and families to see the Black History Museum, possibly in early March. For more information on Black history and education, visit the school’s website and Alivia Hardges’ YouTube page, Miss Alivia Reads.