Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Slavery artifacts tell truth

Exhibit part of summit on racism and the church

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] A branded slave's picture is shown above a case of shackles from Middle Passage Inc.'s collection of slavery artifacts
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
FAIRFIELD - Whips, chains and shackles are all a part of the history of slavery.

This week, they're on display in a traveling exhibit at the Tri-County Assembly of God in Fairfield, which is hosting the National Summit on Racism in the Church starting today.

It's an important part of the event," said Pastor Ray McMillian, one of the organizers of the three-day summit. "For we can't talk about racism without talking about slavery."

The summit is an interdenominational, interracial gathering of Christian church leaders to discuss racism in the church.

Accompanying the summit is a traveling exhibit of the Middle Passage and African American History Museum. The museum has more than 26,000 artifacts, from slavery to now.

"When you look at a branding iron and when you look at a whip, you don't need a historian to tell you what it was used for," said Jim Petty, who with his wife, Mary Anne, have collected the artifacts in the exhibit for the last 12 years.

The collection, which is heralded by some as the largest of its kind, has been featured on national news networks and the Oprah show. The Pettys, who have been traveling with more than 250 items since August, are working to raise $45 million to build a free-standing museum by 2005. Several cities have expressed an interest.

The exhibit, free and open to the public today, Thursday and Friday, 4 to 6:45 p.m., includes coins and glass beads used to purchase slaves, quilts made by slaves from corn-meal sacks, and documents inventorying slaves and their values. There's also a Confederate flag signed by members of the Ku Klux Klan who were indicted in the 1960s in the murder of three civil-rights workers.

The Pettys, who won't accept federal or state funding, to avoid influence over how the exhibit is displayed, collected most of the items themselves, going door to door for the artifacts and their stories. The collection is constantly growing, with an average of 300 to 350 items added each month.

"These artifacts tell the truth. The documents, written by whites for whites and for white juries, don't tell the real story," said Petty, who lives in Gulfport, Miss. "All over the South, and the North, our children are being taught that slavery wasn't that bad.

"The tintype photographs, the whips ... when an individual looks at these instead of reading about them, it tells a different story."

If you go

What: National Summit on Racism in the Church

When: Registration-only sessions 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; Middle Passage Exhibit, 4 to 6:45 p.m. daily; public services at 7 p.m.

Where: Tri-County Assembly of God, 7350 Dixie Highway, Fairfield.

Cost: $99 for the three-day conference or $35 per day. Scholarships available; exhibit and services free.


Mark Knoll, historian and professor at Wheaton College, traces history of racism and the church from 1776, 9 a.m. today and 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, nationally known preacher featured in Time magazine, preaches at the 7 p.m. Thursday service.

Pastor Bill Hybels, author and pastor of 18,000-member Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, speaks at 11 a.m. Friday.

Fred Price, Bible teacher and pastor of a 17,000-member church in Los Angeles, preaches at the 7 p.m. service Friday.

The summit is organized by Cincinnati Area Pastors. For more information, visit Web site.

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