The “Stone of Hope: Black Experiences in the Fox Cities” webinar will be held virtually via Zoom on Thursday, Feb. 25 from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the History Museum at the Castle, aims to discuss the history of the Black community in the Fox Cities and highlight the necessity of diversity and inclusion within the Appleton region.
In the webinar, Sabrina Robins, Director of Operations at Manpower, Inc. and board member of African Heritage Inc., will be the webinar’s moderator. Other panelists include Nicholas Hoffman, Administrator of Museums and Historic Sites of Wisconsin Historical Society, and Donna Sack, Vice President and Chief Program Officer of the Naper Settlement Museum.
The webinar aims to discuss the experience of Black Americans in the Fox Cities from the 1770s through the present, said Kimberly Barrett, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty. The discussion includes historical research regarding the Fox Cities region, where the Black community in the mid-to-late 1800s decreased drastically due to the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), racially discriminatory housing practices at local businesses and the “sundown” practice, which required Black Americans to leave the community before sunset. The webinar will also address the ongoing efforts that seek to nurture race relations in the region.
Robins acknowledged the historical research’s delicacy, as the research captures the experiences of real people who visited or lived in Appleton. Due to the complex and challenging content, Robins said that every element of the research that will be presented during the webinar was reviewed by academic historians and content experts such as a United State Colored Troops historian at Petersburg National Battlefield.
“The narrative for the ‘Stone of Hope: Black Experiences in the Fox Cities’ is not revisionist history but, [rather], a documented piece of regional foundational research that clearly shows that institutional, cultural systems [were] intentionally designed to marginalize and erase the very existence of Blacks and their contributions to the emerging and founding of the region, including Appleton” Robins stated.
Barrett sees a hopeful future for the Fox Cities region, as she is witnessing many ongoing projects that aim to create a diverse and inclusive atmosphere among community members. According to Barrett, the Belonging Committee from the Imagine Fox Cities initiative convened on matters regarding antiracism and belonging in the summer of 2020 and is currently sponsoring a series of discussions on policing.
Barrett emphasized the importance of understanding the history of racial stigmatization to dismantle systematic racism, as the leaders of the region and individual citizens have begun to realize that creating an inclusive atmosphere would improve the quality of life of everyone in the community.
“We have to understand our true and complete history, and most of us didn’t get taught a multicultural history of the United States,” Barrett said. “We learned a history that made the experiences of Black people invisible … it is important now that we share that history and [let it] become a part of our everyday knowledge … and end the cycle of racism.”
“Stone of Hope: Black Experiences in the Fox Cities” pop-up museum is a collaboration between African Heritage, Inc. and the History Museum at the Castle. The exhibit is available online and on display in the Warch Campus Center throughout February.