‘If you don’t know what happened in the past, how can you prevent it in the future?’

Exhibit ‘transports’ guests through time with artifacts acknowledging oppression, brutality toward African-Americans

A+Ku+Klux+Klan+robe+and+a+lynching+rope+were+on+display+in+the+%E2%80%9CCivil+Rights%E2%80%9D+section+of+the+Forgotten+Images+Collection+from+Jan.+31+to+Feb.+2+at+the+Expo+Arts+Center.
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‘If you don’t know what happened in the past, how can you prevent it in the future?’

A Ku Klux Klan robe and a lynching rope were on display in the “Civil Rights” section of the Forgotten Images Collection from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at the Expo Arts Center.

A Ku Klux Klan robe and a lynching rope were on display in the “Civil Rights” section of the Forgotten Images Collection from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at the Expo Arts Center.

Photos by Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune

A Ku Klux Klan robe and a lynching rope were on display in the “Civil Rights” section of the Forgotten Images Collection from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at the Expo Arts Center.

Photos by Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune

Photos by Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune

A Ku Klux Klan robe and a lynching rope were on display in the “Civil Rights” section of the Forgotten Images Collection from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at the Expo Arts Center.

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In their seventh year hosting their “Forgotten Images” exhibit, local residents David and Sharon McLucas once again presented their collection of African-American history from Thursday, Jan. 31, to Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Expo Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave.

The seasonal exhibition, which has traveled throughout Southern California, showcases African-American cultural artifacts dating back to the 1800s. The McLucas couple guided guests through their 20,000-piece collection, which they began accumulating 25 years ago.

Forgotten Images celebrates African-American successes, ranging in the forms of Muhammad Ali action figures, Black Panther coloring books and sections dedicated to the Obamas and African-American athletes from local Polytechnic High School.

But it also acknowledges the oppression and brutality African-Americans have faced emotion-inducing artifacts, such as an authentic and blood-stained Ku Klux Klan robe, a lynching rope, “colored only” signs, “Alligator Bait” babies and multiple figures and images depicting the use of blackface.

Sharon McLucas, owner of the Forgotten Images Collection, holds an artifact as she gives a guided tour of the exhibit on Friday, Feb. 1, at the Expo Arts Center.

“I hope it makes the young people think about this experience and what lies ahead,” Sharon said. “It’s very emotional, very intense. I want them to know the plight and understand why we need change.”

Initially, the McLucas’ began hosting their exhibition from their own living room. David had been collecting vinyl records, while Sharon collected Aunt Jemima salt-and-pepper shakers, they told the Signal Tribune. David jokingly mentioned they once had so many pieces that they had to keep some on the floor.

Over time, friends and educators began visiting them to see the artifacts. After some encouragement from the Smithsonian Museum, the McLucas’ began obtaining grants and taking their collection to churches, schools and city events.

“I want young people today to understand that they need not to surrender,” David said. “I don’t want them to be ignorant. If you don’t know what happened in the past, how can you prevent it in the future?”

Overall, the collection itself produces conversations and mixed feelings about the negative history of African-Americans, according to those who have seen the exhibit. However, attendees did appreciate learning from the exhibition.

Artifacts from the “Alligator Bait” section of the Forgotten Images Collection, on display from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at the Expo Arts Center, depicts how slave children were fed to alligators.

“I love it,” said attendee Alike Chandler. “I think it’s educational and powerful to document these historical events. The original artifacts transport you back in time.”

Chandler, who has attended the exhibition before, brought her boyfriend Sidney Cosby and his 15-year-old nephew Demoria Jackson to experience it themselves.

“It’s amazing,” Cosby said. “There’s a lot of information that should be shared in more locations. It’s imperative that they have it taught in school.”

Jackson added, “I wish they talked about it more at school. They only teach you the top layer. I appreciate the time we live in now.”

Editor’s note: Sharon McLucas is a former advertising representative with the Signal Tribune.