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How African American families help shaped Newport News' East End - a new museum exhibit explores the topic

This Black History Month, a museum in Newport News is taking a look at how African American families helped shape part of the city.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The East End of Newport News has gone through a lot of changes over the years; Right now, it’s in the middle of a multi-million dollar revitalization project.

As that part of the city changes, the Newsome House Museum and Cultural Center has a new exhibit exploring the cultural development of Newport News’ East End.

“As the city is changing, let us not forget how important history is," Curator Crystal Sessoms said. "Especially the history of African Americans who’ve worked tirelessly for change.

As new buildings go up, curators at the Newsome House museum don’t want the history of this community to be forgotten.

A new exhibit called "Buildings And Business: The Landscape of African Americans in the East End Of Newport News" explores how the area grew and the integral role Black families and leaders played in developing it.

“This is the history of people who live here. Many of those African Americans, those families who migrated here originally, they’re still here," Museum Assistant ad Williams said.

Williams and Sessoms said the exhibit traces the migration of families who looked for a new beginning and settled in the east end to work at the shipyard. Over the years, the east end grew into a bustling community.

“The president of the shipyard played an instrumental role in getting public housing here for Black people," Williams said. "One of the first housing initiatives for Black people in the country here in this neighborhood.” 

As the East End continues to grow and under redevelopment, through this new exhibit, anyone can trace the history of the neighborhood.

“They started to come together for their families, for their children, for education. It really became a sense of community," Sessoms said.

Admission to Newsome House museum is free but officials ask that you donate $2. If you’re planning to tour as a group, please give them a call first.

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