While writing about the need for America to have museums that focus on African American history, Rebecca Doyne expressed how easy it is to feel lost without a way to discover the struggles and triumphs of the people who came before you.
“I, as an African American, have an incredible and rich history that did not begin with bondage,” said Doyne, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock senior from College Station, Arkansas. “Most won’t know because that’s the heaviest topic covered in textbooks when it comes to general history in America.”
Doyne is one of eight UA Little Rock students who went to Washington, D.C., after winning an essay contest to promote knowledge of African American history.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month, the Joel E. Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity held an essay contest in February in which students answered: “Why does the United States need a National Museum of African American History and Culture?”
The winners include:
- Kennedy Butler, junior art history major from Little Rock
- Sean Corrothers, junior accounting major from Little Rock
- Rebecca Doyne, senior advertising and marketing major from College Station
- Ravan Gaston, sophomore political science major from Jonesboro
- Jarodrick Mixon, senior health and performance major from Dumas
- Jessica Tate, junior international studies and Spanish major from Nashville
- Kiahjea Ward, junior mass communications major from Little Rock
- Tori Williams, junior English major from Little Rock
The winners received a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The facility is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. To date, the museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts.
During the weekend of June 2-4, Anderson Institute Director John Kirk and the students traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit the museum, the White House, the National Mall, and other sites. The group also met with Dr. Adjoa Aiyetoro, former director of the Anderson Institute and a retired UA Little Rock law professor.
“Taking the students on these trips is fascinating,” Kirk said. “Out of the eight students, two had never flown before. I think the students had a great time. This essay contest gave some of them their first opportunity to go on a flight, to see a big city, to discover more about African American history, and to experience the nation’s capital city.”
One student winner, Kiahjea Ward, wrote about “not fully understanding what it meant to be black in America” until her senior year of high school. Ward appreciated the chance to learn more about her heritage.
“I wrote my essay about growing up and not really knowing too much about being black,” she said. “The most interesting thing I learned about African American History is that being black isn’t a curse. Going to the museum and seeing all that we have done is definitely encouraging. No matter what, we will persevere.”
In the upper right photo, students who won a trip to Washington, D.C. through an essay contest with the Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Pictured, from left to right, are: Dr. John Kirk, Tori Williams, Jarodrick Mixon, Rebecca Doyne, Jessica Tate, Kennedy Butler, Kiahjea Ward, Ravan Gatson, and Sean Corrothers.