The exhibit, provided by Fred Saffold, gave many the opportunity to see positive and more challenging elements of Black history, with a long display set up on tables around the gym.
Grand River students walk through the exhibit.
“There were inscription cards to describe the items and the kids were reading and learning about things,” Middle School Dean Paula Henry said. “It was really an excellent experience for the students, and I was very surprised at the engagement, I must admit. The kids really took the time to look and learn.”
Items varied greatly by time and subject and included pictures of famous and prominent Black leaders, athletes, and inspirational figures. Items used in times of slavery were also present, which prompted important conversations about history and human rights.
The exhibit was laid out on tables throughout the gym.
“We started from those really difficult periods,” Henry said. “There were advertisements about slavery, and an actual chain that would have been used. But it was balanced well with things showing how far things have come. There were pictures of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, Arthur Ashe, and a signed jersey from Colin Kaepernick.”
Saffold travels the country with the exhibit to inform school-aged children about important moments in Black history. One student impressed Saffold with her persistence in reading each item’s description, while others found inspiration in the highlighted athletes.
Grand River Dean Paula Henry with museum founder Fred Saffold.
“One of the young girls, I think maybe she was in first or second grade, she said, ‘that's who I want to be like,’ pointing to a picture of Serena and Venus Williams,” Henry said. “I think seeing themselves in this Black history timeline was a huge part of going through the different artifacts. They enjoyed seeing people that look like them.”
Great work sharing important history with your scholars, Grand River!
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Grand River Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Livonia, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
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