It's Time to Learn

Madison Craig, Student, Fitchburg State University

I want to really emphasize just how important the Black Lives Matter movement is in connection with the antislavery movement in the 1860s. I hope to be able to accurately show the role that the antislavery movement has had on the current BLM movement.

African-Americans have been abused, and this continues to this day. Around the world, millions of people of color fight every day to change racist beliefs against people of color. Prejudiced people think that some people are inferior because of their natural skin color. Unless everyone works together to change, racist beliefs will not change. In Philip Kennicott and Peggy McGlone's article, "The Top 36 Must-See Items at the African American Museum," readers can see the slave, Gordon, who escaped in the 1860s. Gordon was abused after escaping slavery. After escaping his master in Mississippi, he entered Baton Rouge, where the photo was taken for this artifact. Gordon endured torture and lacerations simply because of his skin color. The racism and discrimination that Gordon faced are the reasons why the Black Lives Matter movement is extremely important because this discrimination continues today.

African-Americans were severely oppressed. One of the many examples of oppression is the theft of gorgeous cultural relics that were originally African art. The Benin Bronzes are a group of over a thousand metal plaques and sculptures that were in the royal palace of the country of Benin. The fact that these artifacts were stolen from their rightful owners of the country of Benin and placed on display is completely ignored by people who visit them day after day. It is extremely worrying that people enter museums and see artwork and relics that were purposefully stolen from their owners but yet no one pushes for them to be returned. This shows that people ignore the wrongful actions against people of color. People go and see beautiful plaques from the country of Benin day after day, but no one cares about the oppression that the people of Benin had to go through. As society progresses, some achievements have been made in response to the theft of these stolen artifacts. In the article "Museums Are Filled With Stolen African art. Is it time to return it?," the author explains that people are making progress towards returning these artifacts. Kleinman explains the push for the return of these relics by stating that, “Now, many more are pushing for the return of African artifacts that were stolen during colonization, including those housed in American Museums." Thankfully, more people are gaining knowledge on the fact that not only artifacts were stolen from people of color but also their rights. There is huge mistreatment of people of color that began in the early centuries that still occurs today and the theft of these artifacts is proof. The correct thing to do would be to return the artifacts that were stolen, but this will not happen because of the mistreatment and discrimination that still occurs in today’s society, which is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important. There must be a continuation to fight against this oppression and this movement does that.

In Worcester, there is a gorgeous mural that was created by artists of color. On the street, there are three words "Black Lives Matter." The colorful mural was produced by local artists and many volunteers in Worcester. This artifact is very important due to the Black Lives Matter movement that is currently taking place in the world. All over the world, different people fight for change every day because of the wrongful discrimination against people due to their skin color. From the anti-slavery movement in the 19th century to the Black Lives Matter Movement today, racism has affected many people who have been taught the negative consequences of discrimination since they were children. Unfortunately, in today's society, people of color still have to worry about the racist beliefs of many people. These may not be resolved unless everyone works together to create change which is why community members from all over Worcester have collaborated to create a huge mural, which will stand on the streets of Worcester near Major Taylor Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The placement of these letters near these streets is important because Taylor was an African-American man who was a world champion in cycling, and Martin Luther King Jr. was a famous civil rights leader in the 1960s. These are both figures that people of color can look up to.

The words "BLACK LIVES MATTER" are written in bright and beautiful capital letters. Each letter has a unique style and color from eighteen local artists. Most of these artists are people of color; this gives people of color the opportunity to show their skills to the entire community as well as giving young children role models to look up to because they are pushing for change. Each letter took about six hours, but in the end, it is worth having a fascinating and thought-provoking mural. Each letter has a different design, such as the letter "K." Artist Khalil Guzman-Kraut created a mural for the letter K which was painted like his idea of what the African-American flag would look like. The letter K was painted with white stars, blue background, red stripes, and black lines. The fact that Guzman-Kraut has done this is important because it recognizes African ancestry and also respects the American flag. The importance of Guzman-Kraut's creation is that there are no flags for African-Americans, even though there are flags for people of other ethnicities and groups. Therefore, he is giving people of color a physical example of a flag to be proud of. People of color have been deprived of many things, including the right to own their own national flag, which glorifies their culture. The mural is very important to the Black Lives Matter movement because it is closely related to the fight against the oppression of people of color. Although the mural may not directly mention the oppression of people of color, it is related to the struggle for equal treatment in modern society, which is why it is associated with my mini-exhibition. The magnificent mural draws attention to difficulties that people seem to have not noticed when it comes to the treatment of people of color. In particular, it is unbelievable to study the history of African-Americans because people can see that true justice has not been achieved, but in the future, hopefully, more people will push for change.

I chose these artifacts because they show the wrongful oppression of people of color ranging from the 1860’s all the way to the current day. The glass plate lantern slide shows the fight that occurred during the antislavery movement and the oppression that occurred in regards to slaves in the 1860s. The Benin Bronzes show the oppression of people of color due to the theft of relics that were important in the palace and the fight to return these artifacts. Lastly, the mural shows the fight against people of color in today’s society. Through using these artifacts, I was able to show the fight against discrimination and racism beginning before the 1860s all the way to how the world combats the oppression of people of color in the current day. By bringing these artifacts together I hope to show that even though efforts are being made against this oppression, more needs to be done. If the fight for justice for people of color began in the 1860s and it is still not resolved, then clearly more needs to be done. I hope that this exhibition pushes more people to join the fight and gives people of color the rights that they deserve. I aim to have people ask questions and, hopefully, people can learn to change their ways.

Berg, Matt. “Massive Black Lives Matter Mural in Worcester Painted by Local Artists, Hundreds of Volunteers - The Boston Globe.” The Boston Globe, 19 July 2020,

Kaabi, Amina. “Artists Are Calling For Museums to Return Stolen African Artifacts.” Milleworld, 2020,

Kleinman, Avery. “Museums Are Filled With Stolen African Art, Is It Time To Return it?” The 1A, 2020, 

McGlone, Peggy, and Kennicott, Philip. "The Top 36 Must-See Items at the African American Museum." The Washington Post, 2016,

Ponti, Crystal. “America's History of Slavery Began Long Before Jamestown.”, A&E Television Networks, 14 Aug. 2019,

Price, Sarah. “Learning Together: Where Did Racism Begin?” University of Notre Dame, 17 July 2020,