The slavery museum in Selma, Alabama stuck with me like nothing else in my life. When we first arrived at the museum we were immediately forced off of the bus and separated into groups based on our sex. Our next direction was to put our hands on the wall and keep our heads down. We weren’t allowed to establish eye contact whatsoever. I was told to frisk the other males to check them for “contraband”. Once I had to do that we were corralled into a small room males on one side and females on another. Again we were inspected and after this thorough inspection by the leader we were then moved into an even smaller room with no light. From there we could hear screaming and yelling as though there were people being raped, murdered or otherwise. After a brief explanation of what would be happening to the slaves at that point were we once again moved into an even darker room where there was the illusion of being in a boat. We had to sit down in a small narrow boat area with our heads down and without moving for close to 15 mins just to simulate to us just an once of what the slaves would experience during the middle passage portion of the slave trade.
After being subjected to that sort of treatment we were lead into a long dark hallway with a single red line down the middle which we were told to stand on and look down without making any movements. The “slave trader” went down the rows picking out what she referred to as the “good lil niggers”. As she went down the rows picking us out I accidentally looked into her eyes when I put my head up. Never in my life have I ever been as scared as I was in that moment, she gave me the coldest meanest look I’ve ever seen, she literally instilled so much fear in my I personally feared for my life. I was picked to my of my surprise and dismay because we were told that we had to pick another person that we perceived as slow or weak and push them to the other side of the line from us. At that moment I felt safe and special until we were told that there is no such thing as a “good nigger”. We were then told that we had to be punished because if we’d turn on our own that fast how long would it be before we turned on our masters and were sent to be punished. When we left the room the lady told us that we now had to act like we were getting whipped and brutalized and make sounds accordingly. Again we were lead into a dark room, the darkest one of them all and we were told to hang our hands as if we were being bound and hung by our wrists. When I started making noises and the group of slaves that were left on the line came into the room where I was I immediately broke into tears. Then the lady went into an act as if a slave master was raping her and/or her children were being taken from her. I then broke into uncontrollable almost hysterical sobbing. At that moment I felt lonely abandoned and like nothing else I’ve ever felt before after a while I was so hurt that I couldn’t even cry anymore because tears couldn’t even express how I was feeling at that moment. The lady then told us about what our ancestors went through and how we had to honor them and live our lives to the fullest and use ALL of our potential and “break free of the personal shackles we have on ourselves”. At that moment I believe I really truly had an epiphany! We then got to leave, compose ourselves and have a debriefing meeting, which I can’t remember because my mind was still racing from what happened to me. I will never forget that day, the day in Selma, Alabama where I truly believe I changed my life.
Charles P. Hayden, Academy @ Palumbo, OU 2010