New museum makes case for everyone's rights This Thursday, April 13, 2017, photo shows an actual piece of the Annapolis, Md., Liberty Tree, embedded into an 18-foot-tall tree replica as a touchable element at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
New museum makes case for everyone's rights
Lexile

Alongside a display of the Declaration of Independence at the Museum of the American Revolution, a separate tableau tells the story of Mumbet, an enslaved black woman in Massachusetts who, upon hearing the document read aloud, announced that its proclamation that "all men are created equal" should also include her.
 
In response, her master hit her with a frying pan. Mumbet sued him, won her freedom in court, changed her name to Elizabeth Freeman and became a nurse. Her case set a precedent prohibiting slavery in the state.
 
The story is a reminder that during the struggle for our nation's liberty, the 400,000 African Americans who lived in slavery in 1776 also longed to be free.
 
Such stories are found throughout the museum, which has opened in Philadelphia. The stories coincide with the 242nd anniversary of the battle at Lexington and Concord, the "shot heard 'round the world" that began the Revolutionary War in 1775. The more inclusive, clear-eyed view of the country's turning points is an intentional departure from the whitewashed story America has often told itself and the world.
 
Instead, the museum seeks to show visitors that the Revolution was a set of aspirational ideas founded on equality, individual rights and freedom. These remain relevant today, said president Michael Quinn.
 
"These ideas rallied people from all walks of life, and they took those ideas to heart," Quinn said.  "What unifies us as a people is our shared, common commitment to these ideas."
 
At several points throughout the museum, visitors are forced to confront the contradictions of the high-minded ideals of the framers of the Constitution and the realities of their time. These include slavery and the second-class status of women. Slavery, for example, would expand for nearly another century after the Revolutionary War ended. And despite arguing for their liberty at the start of America, women in the United States would fight for suffrage into the early 20th century.
 
The message: The ideals of the American Revolution belong not only to the founding fathers long revered by our country, but also to the founding generation of Americans who first heard them, and the generations that have come since.
 
"For over two centuries, if you said the words 'founders of this country,' the image that would pop to most people's minds would be a white man," said Scott Stephenson, vice president of collections, exhibitions and programming. "Increasingly, we at museums have realized we have got to tell a broader story."
 
One exhibit features the story of the Oneida Indians, one of the first allies to support the nascent America, who fought and died alongside the colonist soldiers. Also on display is the active role of African-Americans, enslaved and free, in the war, fighting with both the Continental and British armies, showed that blacks were patriots also fighting for their own freedom.
 
Historical interpretations conjured from diaries and letters of the lives of five men and women who took various routes to freedom during the war are presented in an interactive digital installation. In paintings, dioramas and exhibits, the stories of figures including poet Phillis Wheatley and William Lee, valet to Gen. George Washington, challenge the idea of who could claim the title of "revolutionary."
 
Visitors are asked to consider the question, "Freedom for whom?" said Adrienne Whaley, the museum's manager for school programs.
 
"The struggle to become free predates the Revolution, and it continues after the war is over," she said. "The promise of America is defined by the ways in which we treat these people."

Filed Under:  
Assigned 23 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it called the “shot heard ‘round the world?"
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (6)
  • williamb-pla
    4/28/2017 - 10:59 a.m.

    The article describes the museum housing many exhibits about minorities in American history, and why they feel their exhibits are important. It encompasses the origins of civic engagement in America, speaking about the start of both women's rights and black American rights. African Americans are one of the most important ethnic groups in American history (along with Native Americans), yet their importance is severely under-documented. The stories of people like Mumbet are inspiring and exemplary for everyone that wants to be involved with any form of civic engagement. More museums need to follow the example of this Philadelphia museum.

  • noahr-ste
    5/01/2017 - 10:18 a.m.

    The museum is portraying things about minorities. It shows why their history is important. I think this is cool.

  • brandond-pla
    5/01/2017 - 11:22 a.m.

    This article is about a new museum on the Revolutionary War that has opened in Philadelphia. This museum focuses on showing visitors that the Revolution was a war centered on equality, individual rights, and freedom. They accomplish this by displaying stories of individuals and groups that embody the ideals of the Revolution, such as the the former slave Mumbet and the Oneida Natives.

    I believe this museum is an excellent development because it showcases stories of Americans that have embodied civic engagement. These individuals have furthered the ideals of the Revolution through their actions and they deserve to be honored.

  • maed-pla
    5/02/2017 - 01:26 p.m.

    This article is about a museum that strives to have more inclusive exhibits about American history. Throughout the museum, visitors are challenged to look past the typical showing of white-washed history. They are asked the question, "Freedom for whom?" as they look as history that is focused on minorities. I believe that this museum is very monumental because the history we learn about usually avoids the struggle of minorities and instead it focuses on only the good. This relates to civic engagement because the all the stories that are shown are about minorities fighting for their rights to freedom and equality.

  • nickm1-pla
    5/02/2017 - 02:22 p.m.

    A new museum in Philadelphia seeks to show the value of women, African Americans, and Native Americans in the founding of the United States. Located next to the Museum of the American Revolution, the new museum has exhibits honoring many different individuals from different perspectives in the revolution. The ultimate goal, however, is to show how the core ideals of the revolution brought unity to a diverse pool of citizens.

    Civic engagement is achieved by the museum as it gives a previously lesser known topic a bigger focus in the public eye. Spreading awareness is a great method way to be engaged in a community.

  • irisp-ste
    5/08/2017 - 07:58 a.m.

    I enjoy seeing all of the new museum features that further immerse visitors into the actual environment of our nation's history. This will make visitors more interested in our history and draw in more people. Exhibits like this are extremely important when it seems like we live in a world where everyone seems to forget about the past.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT