COURT HOUSE - Seventh graders at Middle Township Middle School learned the power of a dream during a Black History Month event held at the school Feb. 26.
According to a release, at the special assembly, Ted Bryan, a former Middle Township High School teacher, and Shirley Green, founder of the Whitesboro Historical Foundation Museum, captivated more than 150 students with stories of African American heroes with direct links to Cape May County.
The students also learned about the history of Whitesboro, a town founded on the dream of freedom and independence by U.S. Congressman George Henry White, and his most lasting legacy.
After relating the theme of dreams to notable figures, Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bryan then shared White’s dream with the students.
“Whitesboro came into existence because of an idea,” said Bryan. “After leaving office in 1901, George Henry White envisioned a town full of thriving businesses owned by African Americans, a dedicated elementary school, vital churches, and a recreation center. A place for upstanding citizens.”
Green brought items from the museum including artifacts, displays, and models for the students to view. Bryan role-played as White and included a reading of his speech to Congress.
White served from 1897-1901 and would be the last African American representative until the post-Civil Rights era, and the only African American to serve in Congress during his term. President Obama referenced this speech when addressing Congress at the start of his first term.
“Inviting us here today to share these important pieces of history connected to this community, our own backyard is wonderful,” stated Green. “It’s all one history, just a matter of connecting the dots.”
The presentations were used to reinforce a Black History Month unit the students had been studying. The lessons included local components of area history, like the legacy of White, the founding of Whitesboro, the Underground Railroad in Cape May, and segregation in education and tourism in southern New Jersey.
As students continue with the unit, they will complete projects related to West African Kingdoms in the Middle Ages and create a video documentary on topics related to local Black History.
“Relaying the history of Whitesboro and George Henry White has been an eye-opening experience for the students,” stated Principal Jeff Ortman. “Being that this is where they live, where they play, where they’ll grow up and potentially raise their families, we want them to understand this history and how it impacts our community.”