PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When Black History Month first began, the goal was to shine a light on the stories and history that are so often forgotten, people glossed over in school lessons and left out of history books. One Philadelphia woman has made it her life’s mission to change that, educating tens of thousands along the way.
“So much happened to my ancestors, and so much happened to people of African descent in this nation that they were so taken advantage of. You come out of that frustrated and angry, and the question is what do you do with that anger? And so I decided to channel that into education,” Adrienne Whaley said.READ MORE: Philadelphia Police: Suspect Wanted For Sexually Assaulting 55-Year-Old Woman Inside Center City Macy’s
That passion is what sparked Adrienne Whaley’s career. Unearthing the unknown stories of American history, Black American history in particular.
“The smallest stories are so fascinating to me because so often the stories that we hear are of the big names in history,” Whaley said.
Whaley is the Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, where she created the museum’s signature school program that is shared with more than 70,000 school children a year, teaching them history, often overlooked in school curriculums.
“We believe that an accurate story is a diverse story,” Whaley said. “That’s the only way you get the fullness of the picture. Children are complex, children are intelligent, children are resilient and they can handle the difficult stories. We have conversations with our youngest visitors about slavery and enslavement, we have conversations about equality, we talk about what is fairness, what does it mean to treat somebody in an equal manner.”READ MORE: 15-Year-Old Boy Seriously Injured After Shot In Carroll Park: Philadelphia Police
Themes the Philly native first took interest in as a student at the prestigious Masterman School. It led her to study African American Studies at Harvard, and later a graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Then, stints at the Philadelphia Freedom Schools and the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
“Essentially most of my adult life has been me finding different ways to make sure that people have access to the stories and the resources to make sure that this history is not forgotten and that we can do better in the future,” Whaley said.
With the unrest the country has seen over the last year, Whaley’s work has become, even more, critical.
“How do we ever expect people to have complex conversations about the present if we don’t equip them to do that in the past,” Whaley said. “The better we equip people to have complex conversations, the better off those folks are to create the kind of world that I think we all deserve to live in.”
Whaley’s work reaches more than 70,000 students a year and she’s working to make more of the exhibits accessible online so that even more students and people of all ages can benefit.MORE NEWS: 4 Arrested After Shooting Inside Airbnb In Point Breeze Leads To Police Chase, Ends In Crash
She is also very much involved in African American genealogy research in the Philadelphia region.