Wistariahurst launches poster exhibit examining Jim Crow era

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 2:13 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 4:45 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - All of February, the nation is celebrating Black History Month and a museum in Holyoke began showing a poster exhibit on Monday that talked about what the Jim Crow era was like both nationally and locally.

“History is complicated and one person’s perspective is not enough,” said Wistariahurst Museum and Garden curator Penni Martorell.

If one thing is clear, racism, especially the Jim Crow era, will forever be part of our history and the Wistariahurst Museum and Garden is now sharing some of that with the public. Starting Monday, the museum began showing Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, a poster exhibition distributed by the New York Historical Society Museum and Library. Through readings and videos, visitors like Tony Sillars of Holyke were able to see what the struggle for equality was like nationwide for Black Americans.

“I was staggered by how much of that [slavery & reconstruction] I never was taught in school or college. It’s amazing how entrenched and intertwined all the systems of oppression have been,” Sillars said.

Martorell told Western Mass News that the exhibit also includes context, collected by a local scholar, that talks about people’s experiences of racism in Holyoke during that dark period.

“There are references in those interviews of people actually experiencing some red lining, not being able to find housing, not being able to get jobs and things like that that were happening locally here in the 1940s and 50s,” Martorell explained.

While Martorell is excited to offer this history to all of western Massachusetts, she saidit is important now more than ever to share it, considering what she calls “rising political temperatures” across the country, especially within the school systems.

“We have to know where we came from and recognize that these things were wrong. They’re just wrong. We need to correct that and institutionally. We need to start examining where these things came from and why we’ve kept them going,” Martorell added.

Sillars was not surprised that there was Jim Crow-era racism in Holyoke and said this curriculum must be taught to make sure history does not repeat itself.

“Now with the rise of white supremacy ideology and the censorship of school curriculum and banning of books, this is very scary…This kind of setting and presentation is pretty powerful,” Sillars said.

The museum also hopes this difficult topic starts conversations to move everyone towards a brighter future. Martorell said multiple perspectives can help tell the whole story.

The exhibit is open on Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Tuesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. throughout the month. You can also find a list of resources, provided by the Wistariahurst, below.

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow - Additional Resources and Programming

Recommended Reading

Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (1988)

Eric Foner, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (2019)

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (2019)

Recommended Watching

Celebrating Juneteenth: The Legacy of Frederick Douglass

What did the nation look like in the years following the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of African Americans? In a special conversation to celebrate Juneteenth, historians David W. Blight and Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. (moderator) delve into the life of one of the most important figures of the 19th century—writer, orator, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass—and how his legacy continues to resonate today. https://www.nyhistory.org/media/celebrating-juneteenth-legacy-frederick-douglass

Reconstruction: America After the Civil War (PBS)

Henry Louis Gates Jr. presents a new four-hour documentary series that explores the transformative years following the Civil War, when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction, and revolutionary social change. https://www.pbs.org/weta/reconstruction/

Virtual Presentation of Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow

Schedule a live, interactive journey through history as Museum curators take you through a virtual presentation of our exhibition Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow. Explore Black Americans’ struggle for full citizenship and equality before the law from the Civil War through World War I. Learn more on our website https://www.nyhistory.org/virtual-presentations. Email group.tours@nyhistory.org for scheduling and prices.

Educational Resources

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow Curriculum

These materials explore the contested efforts toward full citizenship and racial equality for African Americans that transpired in the 50 years after the Civil War. The period between the end of slavery in 1865 and the end of World War I in 1919 saw African Americans champion their rights as the “separate but equal” age of Jim Crow began. This curriculum examines both the activism for and opposition to Black citizenship rights, the works of art, political cartoons, photographs, documents, primary accounts, and timelines and underscores how ideas of freedom and citizenship were redefined by government and citizen action, and challenged by legal discrimination and violence.

Download at https://www.nyhistory.org/education/professional-learning/curriculum-library

Daily Lesson Plans that focus on Black History


Young Activists Then & Now Global Citizens

4th Grade

Life of a Black Soldier in the Civil War

Augusta Savage - Harlem Renaissance Artist

Great Migration

Mary Church Terrell - Black American Activist

7th Grade

Slavery and the U.S. Economy

Slavery in the U.S.

Black Citizenship After the Civil War

African American Civil War Service

Abolitionist Movement

8th Grade

Civil Rights and WWII

Black Panthers to Black Lives Matter

11th Grade

Mary McLeod Bethune: Black American Educator and Activist

Education and Civil Rights in the 1950s

Race in Postwar America

Confronting Racism through Art: Betye Saar and the Black Arts Movement

Learn more about New-York Historical Society’s educational programming and curriculum resources by subscribing to our newsletter at: https://www.nyhistory.org/education

Digital Outreach Program for School Groups: Reconstruction

This one-hour lesson focuses on the Reconstruction period and considers some of the ways Black Americans strengthened their communities and exercised their rights as citizens. (Secondary school level).

Learn more on our website https://www.nyhistory.org/education/school-groups/social-studies-enrichment. Email education.outreach@nyhistory.org for scheduling and prices.

Digital Outreach Program for School Groups: Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow

In this one-hour lesson students learn about the rise of Jim Crow, and how Black communities fought back against their systematic oppression in the post-Reconstruction era. (Secondary school level).

Learn more at https://www.nyhistory.org/education/school-groups/social-studies-enrichment. Email education.outreach@nyhistory.org for scheduling and prices.

Private Teacher Workshop: Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow

In the 50 years following the Civil War, efforts to create an interracial democracy were met with a backlash that ushered in the “separate but equal” age of Jim Crow. Using our curriculum guide Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, learn how Black Americans advocated for their rights in the struggle for equality.

Learn more at https://www.nyhistory.org/education/teachers/custom-professional-learning. Email professional.learning@nyhistory.org with questions.

Latest News

Latest News