The Generations Tour
400 Years, 12 Objects, 1 Hour
Take the new self-guided tour of our permanent collection, The Generations Tour. Discover the story of Maryland by following the lives of two fictitious characters as they take you on a journey through the permanent collection. Chima is a captured West African sold into slavery, and Gladys Marie Greenfield is a successful businesswoman who resides today in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Their stories lead you to 12 exhibits in the permanent collection that cover 400 years of African American history. Through the eyes of Chima and Gladys, experience how history shaped individuals, and how individuals shaped the unparalleled history of the African American experience in Maryland.
Ask for the gallery guide at the Visitors' Services desk.
Preview the Generations Tour
Born around 1672 in what is now southern Nigeria, Chima is a young Igbo man, who recently completed his manhood rites and was beginning to make a name for himself as a woodcarver. He aspired to become a part of the important men's Ozo society, and had a reputation for being a hard worker and a generous spirit. While out foraging for a special kind of wood, far away from his home, Chima is abducted by a group of traders, marched to the coast, and held for weeks before being loaded onto a ship. This is his story…
Wrist Shackle, late 17th Century
Chima debarked from the British slave ship Thomas and Susannah with an iron shackle similar to this on his wrist. After 278 days at sea, he worried if the chafing and injuries suffered from his restraints, along with the physical torment of his circumstances, would affect his ability to carve. Out of the original 251 Africans the Royal African Company loaded into their vessel, only 174 survived the long trans-Atlantic voyage, which began in October of 1688, and ended at a port on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in July of 1689. Chima, along with two other shipmates, was stripped, inspected and sold to a landowner in Prince George's County, who renamed him “Jim,” as it sounded similar to “Chima” every time the young captive would voice his name.
Gladys Marie Greenfield, 79
Gladys vividly remembers the April day in 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The city of Baltimore, like so many other urban areas around the country, went up in flames. While the city endured four nights of rioting, Gladys spent the four nights inside her storefront beauty salon, protecting it from rioters. For many years, those nights would often become the topic of conversation amongst the clients in her relocated beauty salon in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Following the untimely death of her husband Albert, Gladys raised her three daughters in Prince George's County while maintaining her salon. This is her story…
“American Flag and Me” Community Quilt, 2014 (above) Other than doing hair, Gladys loved quilt making. She learned quilting from her mother, Essie Mae, when she was eight years old. The two spent hours selecting fabrics, carefully cutting and arranging them, while drinking sweet tea on summer days. Even after retiring from her salon, Gladys continued to quilt. In 1990, after the death of her mother, she joined the African American Quilters of Baltimore. Every third Saturday since then, she has made the hour-long drive from Oxon Hill to St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore to sew with other women. In 2013, Baltimore artist/educator Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither visited 78-year old Gladys at her Oxon Hill home to formally invite her to contribute a panel to this quilt.