Nov. 8, 2005
By George Mauzy
Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis set the stage for the fourth annual Community and Campus Days Showcase when he said aroused the crowd at Nelson Commons by saying that he envisioned the event being so big in the future, that it must be held in the university's 13,000 seat Convocation Center.
"Dr. McDavis set some high standards and really raised the bar with his inspiring opening comments," said chair of Ohio University's Department of African American Studies Vibert Cambridge. "It is clear that the university's administration sees the linkage between the showcase and its place in the university's strategic plan, Vision Ohio."
This year's event was highlighted by a roundtable on the Underground Railroad hosted by G. Christine Taylor, assistant to the president for diversity, and an assortment of regional entertainers. Attendees were treated to performances by local musicians and singers and were exposed to a variety of table displays that featured books, paintings, photographs, artifacts and other materials that displayed the history of people of color in the area. Ohio University's College of Medicine was also in attendance, providing free blood pressure and sugar level screenings in celebration of November being National Diabetes Month.
The Kennedy Museum previewed its upcoming exhibition, "Rendville, Ohio," which opens on March 31, 2006. James Karales, a 1955 Ohio University graduate, took the photos in 1956 before he went on to have a successful career as a photographer for Look magazine.
Flushing, Ohio, resident John Mattox brought artifacts from his Underground Railroad Museum. As museum curator, he says he regularly takes his "Traveling Trunk" to schools, prisons and other places where he educates people about the history of the Underground Railroad and slavery. His table featured documents and papers from slavery, including sobering items such as shackles, hooks and whips.
"We have more than 9,000 items at the museum," Mattox said. "I had a good time and spoke to a lot of people. I will definitely be back next year."
Another first-time exhibitor was Mary Cassells Kearney of Columbus. She is a fifth generation descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, Jefferson's now famous mistress, whom he fathered several children with. Kearney displayed her family tree and a poster board that served as a tribute to Hemings.
"We have a Woodson family reunion every other year," Kearney said. "I have a letter from the university saying that my relatives performed the masonry work on many of the buildings at Ohio University."
Ohio University's Director of Education Abroad Connie Perdreau set up a table display highlighting many of Ohio University's black pioneers. Among them were the first male and female graduates, John Newton Templeton and Martha Blackburn, respectively, the first black School of Journalism graduate Alvin Adams and the first black senior class president and marching band drum major Phillip Saunders.
"Phillip Saunders went on to become a great artist and playwright who worked in Chicago for many years," said Lois Thompson Green of Dublin, Ohio. Green, who grew up in The Plains, talked about her late father who was the only black barber in Athens for many years.
Columbus, Ohio, historian Glenn Barnett was on hand looking up people's genealogy on his computer. "I look up people's names using the history of about 17 major Indian tribes and I have found out that I have the blood of many of them. I have even traced them to England's first black queen."
Chesterhill, Ohio, Mayor and Ohio University Professor Richard Wetzel and Athens City Mayor Ric Abel read proclamations and Multicultural Genealogical Center President David Butcher joined McDavis and Cambridge in speaking during the opening ceremony.
"I was blown away at how nice an event this was," said Portsmouth resident Jeanette Langford. "It certainly exceeded my expectations because of the high level of entertainment and information that was presented. I can't wait for next year because I plan on being an exhibitor."
The showcase capped a weekend that included an on-campus multimedia presentation by Marietta historian Henry Burke on Nov. 3 and two performances of the play "From Here: A Century of Voices from Ohio," in Chesterhill, Ohio, on Nov. 4.
"This event keeps getting bigger and better and this year, it had many new participants," Cambridge said. "The university responded to the challenge of being a good partner with the community and this year's event was a signal of the community's support for the university's large research project on the history of people of color in the Ohio River Valley."
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.