Bringing My Preschool Age Daughters to Charleston’s Old Slave Mart Museum

For the past few weeks, after my kids are in bed, I have had my nose buried in Ned and Constance Sublette’s quintessential soon-to-be-required-reading The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave Breeding Industry. (My thoughts on this book will be a whole nother post…) Through reading this, I came to understand that few images exist of slave auction houses, and the historical remnants of slavery have been persistently concealed.

While looking up sites to visit on a family vacation to Charleston, I came across The Old Slave Market Museum  I was enthusiastic to visit this rare preservation of an auction building, but I hesitated because I would need to bring my three young daughters with me.

I worried: Is it appropriate for them? Is it going to be too scary? 

But I really wanted to go. I really want my daughters to be educated about history and justice, even in a small way at their age. I want my daughters to see the joy I take in learning and the seriousness and purposefulness that I approach learning in my life.

And so we went. It was $8 per adult and free for children, so I knew that even if we spent a short time, it would be fine – not too expensive.

And so we went. My daughters love to look at maps, and we spent a little time discussing a map which showed how slaves were transported from Maryland and Virginia to other parts of the South – by chattel, train, river, and ocean.

My daughters mentioned that the people in the photos looked sad, and they didn’t like that people had to leave their families. They asked me about the shackles and told me that they didn’t want to wear them. They studied a plaque that showed how people who were enslaved were prepared for the auctions – shaved, dressed nicely, being fed more food in the weeks prior to sale.

I used some very simple questions (taken from Visual Thinking Strategies) to start discussions about the museum’s features: What’s going on in this picture? What more can we find?

We spent twenty minutes in the museum, and I was proud that I took my children, proud that they behaved well, that they were curious, and proud that I overcame my hesitation of bringing them.

After they went outside, I had the pleasure of speaking with History Interpreter Christine King Mitchell, who provided me with some wonderful booklists. She is working towards publication of a book of primary source materials, and she showed me a few copies of posters announcing slave auctions that will be included in her book.

Later that day, my oldest daughter informed me: “I want to be brown.” I realized we had not discussed the skin color of people displayed in the museum. She had also played with two girls who were black in the Charleston Waterfront Park Fountain that day. (Not unusual – my daughters go to a fairly diverse preschool and have played with children with all shades of skin.) So, I wondered why she wanted to be black. “Mom – I could wear bright pink lipstick if I was brown.”

She is interested in race, so it is my responsibility now to find some books about this and start talking a bit about skin. I don’t feel comfortable with the topic at all, but I know it’s important.

Guerilla Art No. 2 – Mental Health Coupon Poster

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I spent some time researching and making this mental health coupon poster this morning, and I will print them, cut along the dotted lines, and (the most fun part!) post them around the neighborhood. If you want to try this, here is a pdf version you can print yourself. Or you can make your own – there are lots of templates online.

This feels like a community service project – if I saw this poster, I would definitely want a coupon from it. While I was creating this, I was thinking about my own well-being and about how I can better care for myself, especially once the school year begins. I think a poster like this might help someone to feel a little bit better or even just get them thinking about their own self within a crowded life.

This project was an assignment (really just a super fun idea though) from The Guerrilla Art Kit: Everything You Need to Put Your Message Out into the World by Keri Smith.

References

Developing a Self-Care Plan (ReachOut.com)

45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul (TinyBuddha.com)\

10 Self-Care Moves You Can Do at Your Desk

They’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.

HURSTON.jpg

A powerful reason to tell your story. I created this poster this morning using Canva. Speaking of brave storytellers, I have so much respect and admiration for the storytelling and advocacy of the women in The Keepers. Last night, I watched this compelling video from the Johns Hopkins 2018 Moore Center Symposium on Preventing Child Sexual Abuse within Institutions and Organizations. The most infuriating part of this video was seeing how much individuals in organizations that are supposedly working to serve children will often go to any length to protect their own jobs and those of their colleagues or subordinates. I see this “cover up” of mistakes (those not of this caliber) in my own profession as a public school teacher, and it is incredibly stressful and disappointing. As a mandated reporter, I have had to make decisions that made colleagues uncomfortable, but I am of the philosophy that if you see something that harms a child or if a child comes to you with a story, then you must follow protocol to report this immediately to someone who can help that child or at least investigate. And no, knowing these stories is in no way enjoyable, but it is cathartic to share them. I sometimes live with a heavy heart and mind.

Note: I read Hurston’s quotation in Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir

My First Guerilla Art Piece

Off to put this someplace! Not sure where, but I’m excited! The directions are below if you want to try it.

Mary Karr Makes Me Weep

It was so worth lingering over the last few pages of Lit. I finished her trilogy of memoirs this summer and feel all the better for it. There was healing in those pages.

Lit

I am dreading finishing this book. I have spent hours in it for the past two evenings, not to mention sitting on a rock at the playground one afternoon absorbed in this book’s honesty, humor, and wisdom. I counted my three children every couple of pages, just for safety’s sake. When I am done these last 41 pages, what will I find next to take up my time?

Connecting to Judaism Through Picture Books (Even if You’re Not Jewish!)

I’m going through our mail from when we were away, and the most exciting pieces are books from PJ Library. We are lucky to get free books from them every few weeks for all three of my daughters. The books help us to get a little glimpse into Jewish culture and holidays. And honestly the books we have received thus far make Judaism so exciting – from Passover to journeys to Israel, my girls are definitely engaged in each book because they are so celebratory and have great illustrations to boot. This generosity came from connecting with a PJ Library table at the Boston Children’s Museum. It seemed too good to be true at the time – free picture books! – but the books keep on showing up in our mailbox. Mazel to PJ Library for “doing a mitzvah” for our family!