Black History Month

Black History Month: 30 Years of Curating Black History Inside Middletown Public Schools

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Raymond Townes has made it his personal mission to put together a Black history exhibit for students and even today, students are still learning from his project 30 years after its inception.

If you sit and talk with Townes for five minutes, you can bet your bottom dollar that you'll learn some history.

Raymond Townes sits behind some of his Black history figurines set to be a part of the school exhibit. From left to right: George Washington Carver, African family with lions, praying man, Black Civil War solider, Buffalo Solider Cathay Williams.

"I was so surprised of how much George Washington Carver had did beside the peanut," said Townes. "Did you know Cathay Williams was a Buffalo Solider for almost a year before they realized she was a woman?"

The journey to educate Middletown students started back in 1987. The motivation comes from Townes' own educational experience and a longing to teach the youth about the rich Black history in the country.

One of the sections of Townes' exhibit inside Beman Middle School in Middletown.

"I tried to ensure that they understood that there was more to Black history than slavery," said Townes. "I was trying to bring in some others that the kids really had no idea of what African American history was like."

The former Middletown Public Schools employee took it upon himself to begin curating little known Black history facts and putting them up around schools.

“Sometimes it would be something that was more modern that was history and sometimes it was right at the very beginning, which was the slave ships that came in," said Townes.

Multiple sections of Townes' exhibit detail Black history throughout the years and lead to modern-day history-makers.

Through the years, he would select and highlight Black inventors, educators, scientists, artists and civil rights leaders.

“Every year is something different that flips that key in my mind, that little key that turns on," said Townes. "Mainly, it’s for the kids, it’s not for me.”  

While Townes has led the charge of curating the collection, he's had some help picking up some historical artifacts.

Each portion of the exhibit takes you through some of the Black history inside the country and has a goal of educating the students at Beman Middle School.

"Teachers have brought me stuff, parents have brought me stuff, people who had history in their house," Townes said. "I have for 30 years, I’ve been receiving and accumulating information.”

Townes' exhibit's legacy lives on inside Beman Middle School where you can still see some of his clippings and the work he's put in to make history come alive.

A closer look at some of the clippings Townes made to educate students and understand the contributions Black Americans have made in the country.

Through all of the extra time and energy, Townes tells NBC Connecticut he only has two wishes for the future.

"My biggest vision is to see the history books being corrected," said Townes. "I want to try and keep up the momentum of Black history inside the school system that's different from slavery and picking cotton."

If you would like to learn more information about Middletown's Black History, click here.

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