A place as rich in history as Fayette County deserves the means to preserve and share those important stories for current and future generations.
So it is incredibly fortunate that a Fayette County tourism grant is providing an opportunity for a traveling museum that highlights the African-American life as it traces the county in the 18th century.
The East End United Community Center’s Traveling Fayette County Black History Museum, spearheaded by Hopwood resident, researcher and historian Dr. Norma Thomas, was unveiled this year and will be available for view again 2-4 p.m Oct. 5 at the center in Uniontown.
The museum is made up of pieces from the collection from Thomas as well as Geraldine Jackson, Phillip Thomas, Al Owens, Herald-Standard clippings, the Pennsylvania Room of the Uniontown Public Library, and websites of Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame, Lantz Funeral Home and Fayette County Genealogy Society.
Pieces in the collection highlight the historic contributions from churches, cemeteries, athletes, individual achievements and photos of an historical marker and monument in Uniontown’s East End that read, “The pathway to freedom led this way for slaves fleeing the South in the years before the Civil War. Here, they were given haven and helped along their journey by local people through one of the key stations in a house on Baker Alley.’’
The museum is a way to bring together — all in one place — a storyline that helps us remember. Perhaps even more importantly, it is a way to teach, like bringing to light the history of slavery in Fayette County and when it was outlawed in the state, the county became part of the Underground Railroad, a secret network of safe houses for escaping slaves, according to Thomas. It is a way to enlighten not only adults who were unaware, but help our local students connect what they are learning in school to events that have happened right here in their own neighborhoods.
As Thomas noted in an interview, a museum like this not only is a source of pride and culture, but “having your history gives you a foundation upon which to build.”
Detailing historic culture can help bring a better understanding to all residents about how those events have brought us to where we are, and help us understand what we need to do to continue into the future more united. The more we know about what has shaped the area in which we live, the better the opportunity will be to bring us together as one population.
When that happens, we can all agree that the results will be met with more understanding, more empathy, more unity and more collaboration in the forward motion of living with our many differences, but living as one.
Those are invaluable lessons we must teach our youth, and oftentimes, they are the lessons of which we need to remind our adults.