My name is Vance Levy and I proudly support the Friends of Sumner School Museum & Archives 501 (c)(3) organization. Currently, I am a Board Member and I ask that YOU, reading this message ESPECIALLY if you know me, to please consider donating to Friends of Sumner (FOS).
The Friends of Sumner organization exists to support the mission and programming at the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives. Sumner Museum is regarded as the nation’s 1st elegantly designed and constructed public school building exclusively for educating African Americans. Built in 1872, Sumner Museum sits on land provided by the Historic Metropolitan AME Church, and touts Frederick Douglass as having delivered its first commencement address.
The significance of a state-of-the-art public facility built for America’s African descended citizen use cannot be understated nor over appreciated. The inspiration behind such an idea and mandated undertaking honorably rests in the ever-evolving chapters of our “American Story”. Sumner Museum, previously and formally named the Charles Sumner School, is a monumental and ever-lasting homage to the legendary abolitionist and US Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts (1811 – 1874).
Senator Sumner was perhaps the most impactful politician of his time; advocating and actioning legislation to afford equal rights to enslaved African Americans and their descendants. Senator Sumner’s effectiveness so vexed rival lawmakers working to preserve the well-heeled and in-place institutions of slavery, that he was beaten to within inches of his life on the Senate floor in 1856. Even after being unexpectedly assaulted, Senator Sumner remained dedicated to the pursuit of equal rights and social/political/economic repair for Black Americans. The Charles Sumner School, completed in 1872, two years before Senator Sumner’s death, is intended to serve as a National Tribute to his life.
Fast forward from 1872 to 1986. Washington DC Mayor Marion Barry, on November 10, proclaims the Charles Sumner School to be renamed the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives. By doing so, Mayor Barry provides a place to enshrine the vision, deeds, and accomplishments of the Nation’s Capitol’s public education system: a system largely contributed to, reformed, and evolved by African Americans – the intended beneficiaries of Senator Sumer’s life’s work.
I think I first became aware of Sumner Museum around 2010. I attended meetings and other events where I both volunteered and performed on behalf of some of DC’s Grassroots organizing and social justice groups. It was not until 2014 that I began to really pay attention to Sumner’s legacy.
Beautifully curated with priceless artifacts and memorabilia spanning and chronicling the history of the DC Public School system, I began to connect many of the stunning portraits on Sumner’s walls with the namesakes of DC Public school buildings – a great number of which are named for African American Educators.
This “discovery” fueled my desire to learn and understand more about the all too often overlooked and downplayed rich history of DCPS. Particularly, I became interested to explore how the retelling of that history can serve to debunk stereotypes and disprove negative and false accusations against DCPS as it moved away from majority white Washingtonian and outsider political leadership beginning in the early 1960’s.
I am fortunate to be graced with opportunities to volunteer at Sumner Museum during programming events and functions. Over the years, doing so has introduced me to a treasure trove of wonderful people, icons, and living legends of the DC Public Education system. It is a challenge to wrap my head around just how blessed I am to have actually been in the presence of DCPS education greatness as they have entered the premises.
I have set up sound systems, projectors, helped get chairs for, and served food to a fair number of DCPS crowning jewel educators, luminaries, and supporters. I have enjoyed honing my photography skills and capturing video at Sumner Museum’s “Hurlburt-Walker Forum” and “DCPS Pride Open House” signature programmed events. I still marvel at the success of 2016’s “Sumner Museum is 30!” Gala where I had the pleasure to work with a cohort of public and private stake holders to commemorate Sumner Schools’ 30th Birthday transformation into Sumner Museum. When asked if I would be interested to help start the Friends of Sumner Museum organization, I immediately said yes.
The FOS supports the Charles Sumner Museum and Archives in a number of ways:
FOS serves as an ambassador: marketing Sumner’s mission
FOS performs event set up and hospitality duties at Sumner Museum events.
FOS helps facilitate the participation of museum studies interns.
FOS supports staff appreciation activities
The COVID-19 Pandemic and subsequent Economic shutdown has closed Sumner Museum’s doors to the public, temporarily. It was at these public events where visitors, if so moved to do so, could support Sumner Museum’s mission financially by donating to FOS. Most commonly and efficiently, this was done by way of cash contributions left in the donation box located on the information table next to the ground floor elevator. It is from these donations where FOS is able to serve Sumner Museum and handle its 501(c)(3) business.
Coming up on a year later, FOS is in a position where we respectfully petition the public for financial support to help handle housekeeping items from 2020.
All amounts are helpful and are welcome. Thank you!
- Regina Bowman
- Kim Bender
- Black Wilson
- Stephanie Rowe
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