30 Years of Preserving Black History in Middletown Public Schools – NBC Connecticut

Raymond Townes made it his personal mission to put together a black history exhibit for students and to this day, students are still learning from his project 30 years after its inception.

If you sit down and talk with Townes for five minutes, you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll learn some history.

Raymond Townes sits behind some of his black history figurines that will be part of the school exhibit. Left to Right: George Washington Carver, African Family with Lions, Praying Man, Black Civil War Soldier, Buffalo Solider Cathay Williams.

“I was so surprised at everything George Washington Carver had done besides the peanut,” Townes said. “Did you know Cathay Williams was a Buffalo Solider for almost a year before they realized she was female?”

The journey to educate Middletown students began in 1987. The motivation came from Townes’ own educational experience and a desire to teach young people about the rich black history in the country.

One of the sections of Townes’ exhibit inside Beman Middle School in Middletown.

“I tried to get them to understand that there was more to black history than slavery,” Townes said. “I was trying to bring in some other kids that really had no idea what African American history was.”

The former Middletown Public Schools employee took it upon himself to start organizing little-known facts about black history and posting them in schools.

“Sometimes it was something more modern that was history and sometimes it was at the very beginning, which was the slave ships coming in,” Townes said.

Several sections of Townes’ exhibit detail black history over the years and lead to modern-day history makers.

Over the years, it would select and spotlight black inventors, educators, scientists, artists, and civil rights leaders.

“Every year it’s something different that turns that key in my mind, that little key that turns on,” Townes said. “Mostly it’s for the kids, it’s not for me.”

While Townes led the curation of the collection, he received help collecting historical artifacts.

Each part of the exhibit takes you through a part of black history in the interior and aims to educate the students of Beman Middle School.

“Teachers brought me stuff, parents brought me stuff, people who had a story in their house,” Townes said. “I’ve had it for 30 years, I receive and accumulate information.”

Townes’ legacy of the exhibit lives on inside Beman Middle School, where you can still see some of his clippings and the work he did to bring history to life.

A closer look at some of the news clippings Townes did to educate students and understand the contributions black Americans have made to the country.

Thanks to all the extra time and energy, Townes tells NBC Connecticut he only has two wishes for the future.

“My biggest vision is to see the history books corrected,” Townes said. “I want to try to keep the momentum of black history in the school system that is different from slavery and cotton picking.”

If you want to learn more about Middletown’s black history, click here.

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