Lessons from History: Professor Griff Shares Black History 101

Professor Griff of Public Enemy (center) with students at JWU Charlotte.

Student Life recently arranged to have the Black History 101 Mobile Museum visit the Charlotte Campus and with it, a collection of more than 200 original artifacts of black memorabilia dating from the trans-Atlantic slave trade era to hip-hop culture. The museum offered a timeline of experiences, achievements and contributions — stories that need to be told.

Some of the images are haunting. Disturbing. Real pictures of black men lynched or burned. Klansmen flaunting their beliefs in public demonstrations. Artifacts from the Jim Crow South. There are also newspaper articles and vintage magazines, as well as pictures of Martin Luther King, Jr., Michael Jackson and President Obama.

Professor Griff, a cultural entertainment analyst and a co-founding member of the iconic hip-hop group Public Enemy, says the mobile museum is important because it’s where the past meets the present — the intersection of culture, politics and history. “We can draw direct parallels to today. Blackface then to blackface today. We have to have meaningful dialogue — we seem to only have surface dialogue. Some of the students were in disbelief. They don’t want to believe it or they just don’t get it. Where is the conversation being had? Today we had the conversation and now I hope there will be meaningful dialogue.”

Shawna Jones '22 says she enjoyed viewing the evolution of black history through the years. “By educating black youth about their history, they are teaching us the importance of it and the future we can build with this knowledge. The exhibit showcased influential black leaders like Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I loved learning about the lives of these leaders through articles and pictures, and am grateful I got a chance to attend.”


Students exploring exhibits at Black History Museum.

Students exploring exhibits at Black History Museum.