Maris Grove Celebrates Black History Month with Genealogy Exhibit

The exhibit showcases a resident’s family history from slavery to freedom.

This February, Maris Grove is celebrating Black History Month by inviting residents and employees of the community to connect personally with the history of the United States at a special exhibit on campus. The exhibition titled “Thru Lucie’s Eyes,” shares resident DeWitte Shipley’s family genealogy from slavery to the present as well as showcases African American history, inventions, music, art, and fashion. The mini-museum will be installed in a vacant apartment at the Erickson Living developed and managed senior living community located in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. 

DeWitte, a retired Abington High School social studies teacher, explains the family story is truly his father’s gift to him. Thanks to his father’s memories, meeting and filming the oldest living member of the family in 1997, the exploration of his genealogy began with the help of his wife Melva, who spent ten years researching the family’s history.

DeWitte and Melva hope the Maris Grove community takes away a wider and broader understanding of African American history and the fact that African American history needs to be included in American history because it is part of our history.

The exhibit will display documented information from 10 generations. The timeline starts with Lucie, who was brought against her will from Africa at 15 years old and sold as a slave in 1707. Lucie and her descendants were slaves of the family of Charles Carroll, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. After five generations of slavery in Maryland, the family continued to live in the Baltimore area, where they worked and raised families. Other family items on display include DeWitte’s artwork and the Howard University diploma of the first family member to graduate from college in 1887, William Troy. Troy was the first African American doctor to set up practice in Virginia.

In addition to the genealogy exhibit, the mini-museum highlights African American history with a display of video clips from key moments in history, newspaper articles, artifacts, art, sports memorabilia, and music from Motown, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, and more.

Special events during the month include a genealogy workshop and hot topic discussion groups. Also, employee lounges will have piped-in music and video clips from African American artists and have literature displays with information on Black American scientists, artists, inventors, and more. Additionally, selected African American themed movies will be shown on Maris Grove TV. 

The Black History Month events are sponsored by the Maris Grove’s Diversion and Inclusion Committee. 

“Thank you to the Melva and DeWitte Shipley for all their hard work in putting together this fantastic exhibit and sharing their personal family story with the Maris Grove community,” said Associate Executive Director Anne Anderson.

About Maris Grove: Maris Grove, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 87-acre campus in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,600 residents and 740 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Maris Grove can be found at MarisGroveCommunity.com.

Photo: Melva and DeWitte Shipley with college diploma of family member William Troy and other items from Maris Grove’s Black History Month exhibit.