The Claremore Museum of History (MoH) has installed a permanent Black history exhibit, “Building Heritage, History and Hope”, to present an inclusive representation of Claremore’s history. The exhibit was curated with input from Black members of the community, including local historian, Gerome Riley.
In honor of Juneteenth and its significance for the Black community, the exhibit will be unveiled during a private event in Claremore on June 19, 2021 at 6 p.m. for family and friends of residents featured in the exhibit, members of the MoH board, donors and public officials.
“The mission of the Claremore Museum of History is to create engaging experiences that celebrate history, connect community and inspire creativity,” said Steve Robinson, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Claremore Museum of History. “This exhibit utilizes objects, narratives, pictures and video to teach visitors about noteworthy Claremore Black residents and businesses to ensure those stories remain and our rich Black history is preserved. The theme of ‘Building Heritage, History and Hope’ reflects our focus to not just to educate, but to also instill hope for future generations.”
The physical exhibit will be paired with a virtual exhibit at www.claremoremoh.org to reach people who are unable visit in-person. Artifacts celebrating Claremore’s Black History will include memorabilia and an historical summary of Lincoln High School, Claremore’s all-Black school that operated for more than fifty years prior to integration.
Visitors can also watch videos of William Snoddy Jr., son of one of the first Black students to graduate from Claremore High School and Olympic qualifying track-and-field sprinter, interviews with local citizens on the importance of the exhibit, excerpts from an interview with Ronald Johnson, first Black Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper and discussions with Claremore’s Presidential appointed judge and Claremore graduate, the Honorable C. Darnell Jones II.
“The Black History exhibit at Claremore Museum of History means a lot to me, the citizens of Claremore, our Black community, Rogers County and Oklahoma,” said Gerome Riley, local historian. “The history of Lincoln School and the Black history of our city has been hidden for years, and this exhibit represents a great day that we can be proud of for generations to come. We know now that our stories won’t be forgotten.”
The Honorable C. Darnell Jones II, a federal judge for the United States District Court in the eastern district of Pennsylvania, is the featured speaker at the June 19 event. Judge Jones comes from a long line of influential Black Claremore residents. His grandfather, W.C. (Prof) Jones, was principal at Lincoln High School. His father, C.D. Jones Sr. was a decorated war veteran and longtime City of Claremore employee. His mother Irene, former Rogers County Teacher of the Year, was a celebrated Claremore educator for more than 40 years until her retirement in 1983.
Other speakers include Robinson, the Reverend Dennis Hampton and Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. The Mount Zion Choir will also perform.
The MoH will continue to develop educational programming for the exhibit in partnership with local universities and secondary schools.
“We will conduct a summative evaluation of the exhibit and programming with an emailed survey for visitors and educators. Results from this survey will inform future exhibition development and improvement,” added Robinson.