About 120 fifth-graders at Gilliard Elementary researched successful African Americans, dressed as them, and participated in a living wax museum on Friday.
Visitors, including parents and younger students, pushed a “button” on each student’s hand. That student would then introduce himself or herself as the famous person and talk about what that person did.
African Americans represented in the wax museum included poet Phillis Wheatley, Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, ballerina Janet Collins, bank president Maggie L. Walker, entertainers Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ruby Dee and Lena Horne, baseball greats Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson, inventor George Washington Carver, explorer Matthew Hanson and Dr. Ben Carson, among many more.
Fifth-grader Aleana Reed wore a black dress, pearls, and glamorous white gloves to be Ruby Dee, who played Ruth Younger in one of Reed’s favorite movies, “A Raisin in the Sun.”
“It’s cool to dress up like them,” Aleana said. “It helps you get to know them really well.”
Classmate Damonese Franklin agreed. Dressed as the fabulous Diana Ross, Damonese had a confidence about her as she spoke of the lead singer of the Supremes, Motown’s most successful musical act.
“It’s good to know about the people and to know what they’re all about,” she said.
Teachers generated a list of successful African Americans and students chose who to portray. They spent time over the last several weeks researching in the library.
“We wanted them to research someone they didn’t know much about so that maybe that person would spark an idea within them, maybe they would have done something that they eventually want to do,” said Principal Faith Lucy.
On Friday, Gilliard hosted a Black History program in the gymnasium before letting parents and the younger students tour the wax museum lining the halls.
“Our hope and goal is that they can learn from these great influencers,” Lucy said, “and hopefully they can play a part in history one day themselves.”