By Taylor Baker
As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s important to remember the diverse history of Cape Cod and the community members of color that helped to make a difference in our hometown.
Opened in 2008, The Zion Union Heritage Museum celebrates the ethnically diverse demographic of Barnstable and Cape Cod. Featured inside the museum are archives and artwork that help to tell the stories of African American, Cape Verdean, and Native American history, provided by many local artists and historians.
“We teach history and culture here, but focusing on the people of Cape Cod,” said Zion museum president and former history teacher, John Reed. “Before we started the museum, where could we find a repository that talked about people of color on Cape Cod? There was no one single one place that celebrated everybody. And the celebration is ‘who started Cape Cod?’”
The Union hopes that the museum will create a broader image of the local history which includes all groups of people and celebrate their involvement.
Reed, alongside Union member Larry Johnson, spoke passionately about the museum’s goal to preserve the history of all ethnicities.
Johnson said, “There’s a lot of history that people don’t know about black and minorities that have contributed to the fabric of this country. The job that [the museum] is doing is unearthing all of that information, putting it together so people of all walks of life can come in here.”
The exhibits help connect the Civil Rights Movement and African American history, which many might connect to the Jim Crow era in the deep south, to the lives of people of color in Cape Cod during the very same time.
“People like [Barack] Obama will tell you that he stands on the shoulders of giants,” Johnson added. “We would not have had a black president, or a minority president, in our lifetime if it wasn’t for people who were bitten by dogs as children, who were jailed as children… We have a whole history of minority awareness in the 1960s and it’s continuing on.”
The museum has many displays that connect the Cape to a larger story of African American history from minority artists.
These displays include resident artist, Robin Joyce Miller who has a large collection of artwork and poetry presented in the gallery which depicts the history of African Americans from the beginnings of slave trade to the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Delores DeLuz contributed a collection of newspaper articles of her husband, Joe DeLuz, a former president of the local NAACP and Building Commissioner for Barnstable. And retired art teacher Pamela Chatterton-Purdy who created the Icons of the Civil Rights Movement exhibit, containing portraits of important Civil Rights moments, is also featured.
The Zion Union Heritage Museum is also collaborating with the Cape Cod Museum of Art until March 24 in honor of Black History Month. The exhibition will be composed of selected work from the museum from artists such as Miller, DeLuz, and Chatterton-Purdy.
On the Union’s website artist Chatterton-Purdy stated, “Lest we forget, the Zion Union Heritage Museum continues to educate that Civil Rights is not a dead issue.”