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Tarboro Woman Uses Exhibit To Display African-American History

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TARBORO — A Tarboro woman wants children to know African-American history is about much more than slavery. It may beBlack History month, but she takes her message on the road all year long to schools, drug stores and anywhere people will listen.

Urmila Smith believes that many young people do not appreciate the accomplishments of African descendents. Her exhibit is designed to convey that history in a physical way.

"We need to know what our past was so that we don't repeat it, and we can go on from that because we are standing on our ancestors' shoulders," Smith says. "I like to have it so people can see and feel." One of her exhibits is atTarboro High School. It has been at the school before, but this is the first time students have helped put it up. It is a snapshot of black achievement.

"I think it's time to stress it more and that you know your history, where you come from and be thankful about that," says Courtney Hopkins, a student at Tarboro High School. "Don't think of the negative thoughts."

Chris Plumbee, another student at the school, appreciates the exhibit.

"A lot of this I see as the history of our country and our half of the state -- of eastern North Carolina -- as well as being the history of the accomplishments of extraordinary people," Plumbee says.

However, every piece of Smith's collection is not flattering. Smith owns hundreds of items that some would find offensive. So why keep them?

"Because it's history, it is a fact," Smith says. "It was as this is, so that's why we need to know and go on from this."

The relics are a throwback, but Smith says they fit into the big picture and show the odds that African-Americans overcame to thrive.

Smith has also set up a window display at Thorne's Drug Store in Tarboro. She has collected thousands of pieces that she would like to put together one day in a large, single exhibit. -->

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Brian Bowman, Reporter
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