Family history in national museum


URBANA — There’s a lot of family history on display in a new space in Washington D.C. The Museum of African American History and Culture opened this weekend. An Urbana man’s family went to check it out and were surprised with what they saw. They saw a lot of familiar faces on the walls.

There are pictures of Larry Parks’ family on the walls of the displays. Then one of those ended up on the front page of the Washington Post. It’s been an exciting week for them and many others across the country.

With smiling pictures lining the walls, Parks’ home is a museum of family history. He says he knows the value of looking back to move forward.

“Everybody wants to know where they came from and that is key,” said Parks.

That isn’t the only place you can see older branches of Parks’ family tree. There’s also a display featuring his heritage at the Museum of African American History and Culture. That includes dirt from his family’s hometown. His ancestors were farmers in Indiana. 

“They ended up owning the land in Lyles Station and they farmed and just made it work for them,” said Parks.

He says his grandparents — like many others at that time — did what they had to do to survive.

“The times weren’t always good for them, but they made it work and they were happy and they were very God-loving people, Christians, and that carried them through a lot of that,” said Parks.

Our nation’s first black president was there for the museum’s dedication this weekend.

“We’re not a burden on America or a stain on America or an object of pity or charity for America,” said President Barack Obama. “We’re America.”

Since then, people have stopped to see thousands of artifacts — all part of a story that hasn’t been shared enough.

“There is a total history in this country that is kind of left out,” said Parks. “My children have brought that fact to me at school they attend. ‘Why is there no history there of us?’ That’s one of the important things the museum does for us, for everybody.”

Many more people will see these displays that are now permanently part of American history.

Parks says he’s looking forward to making a trip to D.C. to see it all in person.

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