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Willie French was a child when some of the black leaders and groundbreakers featured today on the walls of the Black History Gallery were giving famous speeches, writing enduring literature, breaking sports barriers and making other contributions.
To Willie French of Elizabethtown, those people and events aren’t only black history, they’re American history.
“It’s the United States of America,” he said.
He sat among pictures, short biographies and newspaper clippings of black history makers during the annual open house Saturday at the Black History Gallery on Gallery Place in Elizabethtown.
The gallery is planned to be open Saturdays for the rest of February, which is Black History Month.
Born in 1949 in Birmingham, Ala., Willie French tells a younger generation about what life was like growing up in a contentious area during the Civil Rights Movement.
He thinks passing on those lessons to children is an important responsibility for parents.
French brought his daughter, Destiny, a seventh-grader at North Hardin Christian School, to the open house. She said it was important to learn about figures such as Harriet Tubman, and the long struggle for equality.
“It’s so wonderful to know that people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he cared about how the blacks were being segregated and all the things they couldn’t do because of their color,” she said.
Destiny was glad to read about important figures and contributions from the black community to American history.
“It’s really important,” she said. “Now that we learned about our history, it makes us feel special in knowing that just because of our color doesn’t mean that we need to be put down or that we don’t deserve to be here or deserve to accomplish anything.”
Her classmate, Kiana Lawrence, enjoys learning about her history and the sort of things her father saw when he was a child. Many advances have been made so she can live in a fairer world, she said.
She enjoyed seeing all the information about black history gathered in one place.
“It makes me feel special because it shows that people care,” she said.
Gzeonie Hampton, who came with the youth group from Revolution Missionary Baptist Church in Vine Grove, said she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about black culture and history because not enough is taught about it in the public school system.
The North Middle School eighth-grader said her current social studies teacher tries to incorporate black history into his lessons, but many other years haven’t focused on the black experience beyond slavery and King.
She wishes lessons would highlight lesser-known figures in black history.
“I think it’s really important to know about other people out there who I can strive to be like,” she said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or email@example.com.