Monday, June 14, 2010

Secret Lives of Interns: First Field Trip!

A blog by Rachael Gilman

This past Friday we interns had our first field trip of the summer to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is a place that shares the local history of a specific group of people, much like the JMM. We viewed their exhibit “Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges.”

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture

This exhibit explores a lesser known part of both African American and Jewish history. I certainly had never heard of Jewish professors fleeing the Nazi’s teaching at historically black colleges before. People hear about the really famous scholars, like Einstein, but not people like Ernst Borinski or Viktor Lowenfeld. These Jewish professors gave new opportunities for learning to their black students. For instance, Lowenfeld started teaching art classes and helped found the art department at Hampton Institute. Many Jewish professors opened up their homes to students to share European music and food.

Professor Borinski teaching in the Social Sciences Lab at Tougaloo College

I was struck by what these Jewish professors were able to offer black colleges in exchange for providing them refuge. Renowned white scholars were teaching at black colleges. They gave new perspectives and ideas to their students. Some of their students went on to do great things, like Dr. Joyce Ladner, a student of Borinski’s, who became the first female president (interim) of Howard University. The blacks proved that they were just as capable as whites, thanks in part to the teaching of their Jewish refugee professors. The exhibit made me tear up a little bit.

Dr. Ladner viewing the exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage

Most of the interns also visited part of the Reginald F. Lewis’s main exhibition upstairs. I did not go see it because I became distracted by the reading area in the middle of “Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow.” The table had a variety of books about African American and Jewish history in Maryland (including two of the JMM’s publications), the Holocaust, relations between African Americans and Jews, and copies of primary source materials that supplemented the exhibit.

Our field trip was merged with the Volunteer Appreciation Brunch so we ate some free food and met some of the JMM’s awesome volunteers. The speeches made at the brunch by Ilene C., Anita, Jobi, Deborah, Jenn, Esther and Laura (a former JMM staff member) were thoughtful and (I hope) made the volunteers feel appreciated.

JMM staff and volunteers at the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Everyone received a JMM tote bag as a token of appreciation and there was also a raffle with prizes. Some of the interns won raffle prizes too. I won two tickets to the American Visionary Art Museum that I can’t wait to use. After brunch, our field trip came to an end and we got back to work at the JMM. I think I speak for all the interns when I say that we are looking forward to our next field trip!

No comments: