“African American History is in the Heart”


Saturday, October 26, 2013

How many people exhibited objects?


How many people came but did not bring objects?



Posted by Pop Up Museum Facilitator Zealand Reynolds

What was it about?

Santa Cruz African American history extends back to the 1860′s, but much of it remains unwritten and unexplored. While Louden Nelson has become something of a Santa Cruz icon, other African Americans who made their mark in local history are yet to be celebrated. This Pop Up Museum, held at the historic Progressive Missionary Baptist Church , invited the community to come and bring the history to life with stories, images, and articles.

How did it go?


Not only was Saturday a beautiful day, it was a perfect day. We had the privilege of Popping up in the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church courtyard to celebrate African American History in Santa Cruz. With the sun a' shining more than 30 people gathered with family photos, newspaper articles, research, and stories showcasing the vibrant and often neglected history of the African American community in Santa Cruz. Friends were reunited, and unexpected connections were made during a Pop Up that emphasized the strength of community and importance of stories.


Among the exhibitors was an octogenarian, who brought photographs of her family and many great memories to accompany them. Her photographs included a series of three black and white images of her brother shaving the hair off of a cow hide at the old tannery. The stunning series was taken by Ansel Adams during a stay here in Santa Cruz! The photographs were a personal treasure, as well as an important historical document. The shared importance of the items on display was a theme throughout the day. The objects  exhibited were priceless to the individuals who brought them, as well as to the history of Santa Cruz.


Historian Geoffrey Dunn brought out some of his personal photographs and relics. As an avid baseball and sports fan, he has gotten his hands on many images depicting sports teams in Santa Cruz. One of my personal favorites on display was a team photograph of the Santa Cruz Beachcombers, Santa Cruz’s baseball team in the 1890’s. The photograph shows an all white baseball team surrounding a lone black man, Edward Purse. At the time, African Americans were not allowed to play in the league,so although a great ball player, Purse was made the mascot. Eventually he went on to manage the black baseball team in Sacramento.


Also among his treasures were articles clipped from local papers discussing issues like naming the Louden Nelson Center, a rather controversial topic due to debated origins of his name. Most documents prior to 1930 listed his name as London. Nelson had been a slave In North Carolina and died a free man in Santa Cruz. He willed all of his land and possessions to the school district to keep it open. I found it surprising that I had not been taught this during any of my time in the school system that he kept afloat.


The church members also brought out photographs of the church prior to renovations, special occasions at the church, and the photo album they made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the church. Also displaying pictures was the local chapter of the NAACP and the Second Saturday Network.


While I thought the day couldn't get any sweeter, I was proven wrong by delicious sweet potato pie and peach cobbler. All and all, this was a Pop Up to remember. Thank you to all who came out and for those who were unable to make it, fear not, you can view images from the event at both our Flicker and our Pinterest.


Be sure to check out more photos on Flickr and Pinterest!