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Museum presents 28 Days of Black History

FLUSHING — Thirty days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31 — except February, which this year will feature 28 Days of Black History, courtesy of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing.

The museum is celebrating Black History Month with online presentations this year. The COVID-19 pandemic closed the museum’s physical location at 121 E. High St., and curtailed its activities, but the board and director are continuing the mission of the late founder and curator John Mattox to educate people about this aspect of American history.

Museum Director Kristina Estle said each day in February is paying tribute to a different person or event that played a key role in Black history. The museum traditionally holds events and activities to mark the occasion in February, but the pandemic continues to take its toll and spur people to explore online alternatives.

“Unfortunately, with the restrictions on the number of people we can have, we still feel we cannot have a public event,” Estle said.

Estle is working with the re-formed Belmont County NAACP. Together they formed a committee to research significant African-American people and related events.

“I take those and some photos and I’m making a video, so every day of February I’ll post a video covering one of these influential people or moments in history,” she said.

Each 2-minute video will have several illustrations.

“I’m just highlighting the best of these people and what they’ve accomplished in their lifetimes, or the events and how it’s changed society,” she said. “One of the committee members will read information that they’ve written, and I put this voice-over in the videos.”

Estle has created a Facebook event for people to watch at fb.me/e/1VxuVHdjQ.

“This event is going to be online,” she said. “Through Facebook, through social media I sent out fliers to the libraries, the schools, the tourism office … St. Clairsville and Barnesville chambers of commerce … trying to reach out not only to school-age children but to the local communities, because I think promoting Black history more in-depth is very important.

“I want to see as many shares on Facebook as possible. That way it reaches more people,” she said.

The videos will feature leaders, inventors, businesspeople and civil rights figures, including:

• Claudette Colvin, a nurse arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated bus;

• Scientist and inventor George Washington Carver; and

• Abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth.

Some videos will focus on more prominent civil rights figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X.

Events to be featured include the protest march on Selma, Ala., and Juneteenth, the celebration of the emancipation of all slaves in the country, as well as the court case Loving vs. Virginia, when the Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage.

“With this event, I think we wanted less mainstream figures — figures that people had not heard of,” Estle said. “I truly believe that educating the public on Black history will improve acceptance of diversity in this area. I know the country is very divided right now, and I hope that efforts such as this will help the country heal and reunite us.

“I’m uploading each video and kind of organizing it on Vimeo,” she said, referring to the video sharing site vimeo.com. “When I’m finished, I can share the link to showcase to all the school systems for their use. I’m hoping once I have come up with 28 videos, I would like to put that in DVD format, compile it all,” she said.Estle emphasized the importance of continuing the mission of the museum and of the NAACP despite COVID-19 restrictions.

“So many people in our area haven’t even heard of the museum,” she said. “Since I have stepped up a year and a half ago as director, my one main (goal) has been promoting the museum any way I can to get our name out there and get more foot traffic, but we’ve been closed since November. Ever since the pandemic, I’ve had to switch from in-house programming to figuring out how to virtually program and promote the museum, and I want to do the same for Belmont County NAACP.”

The Underground Railroad Museum website can be found at ugrrf.org.

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