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New exhibit to open at Booker T. Washington National Memorial

New exhibit to open at Booker T. Washington National Memorial

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By Meagan Carpenter

meagan.carpenter@roanoke.com

721-4675, ext. 406

Harvest Time at Booker T. Washington National Monument is one of the biggest events at the park. New this year is a permanent exhibit featuring the early years of Washington’s life as a slave.

Friends of Booker T. Washington, a group that promotes the park and public awareness of Washington’s legacy, and those who helped build and design the new exhibit were invited to be the first to see and experience "Born Here, Freed Here" on Sept. 11.

The exhibit provides illustrations, text, photographs, interaction and audio components that help convey the story of Washington, according to chief ranger Timothy Sims.

Superintendent Carla Whitfield has been the force behind taking the idea and making it into reality.

“I think this exhibit does something that I haven’t found at any other exhibit,” Whitfield said. “I think we charged ahead and are showing the struggles that Booker T. had to face as a slave, but in an interactive way.”

The exhibit uses interactive pieces to help visitors learn more about Washington's early life and the types of tasks he had to perform as a slave. Among the hands-on activities showing the tasks are pulling a rope attached to a fan and lifting heavy bags to simulate the amount of weight he had to carry as a young slave.

According to Whitfield, the exhibits were funded by fees collected under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (National Park entrance fees). Booker T. Washington National Monument was selected to receive funding for the project through a competitive process, she said.

John Whitfield was the volunteer historian who through years of research, discovered new information about Washington and the role he played at the national monument.

This year’s Harvest Time of 1864 will be held Saturday at Booker T. Washington National Monument on Virginia 122in Wirtz. It will include the grand opening of the new exhibit "Born Here, Freed Here."

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