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A powerful history lesson, from dolls

A powerful history lesson, from dolls

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HIGH POINT — They’re just dolls, barely 2 feet tall.

They’re made of cloth, with porcelain heads and porcelain hands. Displayed behind a pane of glass, near a wall of Shirley Temple dolls, they represent a forgotten form of entertainment that feels as antiquated as an eight-track tape.

Yet, these 16 dolls inside High Point’s Angela Peterson Doll & Miniature Museum mean much to Chris Greene.

She’s a guidance counselor at High Point Central. And six years ago, she helped the museum acquire the dolls.

These days, she’ll pick up a few from the museum, cart them into a classroom and talk to students young enough to be her grandchildren about the struggles of a different America.

She’ll tell students about the importance of a baseball player, a Georgia preacher and a petite Alabama woman who refused to give up her bus seat more than a halfcentury ago.

She did that Wednesday for Danielle Crosby’s social studies class at High Point Central. She brought dolls of baseball player Jackie Robinson and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., talked about their fight for equality and asked students to write about what they learned.

“It’s all races for all people,’’ student Keival Kittrell told Greene. “Blacks. Whites. Chinese. Hispanic. It’s all people. That is what he fought for.’’

If it were only that easy. Race is active in almost everything we do in our corner of the world, and in some cases, charges of racism continue to fester like a wound that can’t heal.

But in High Point, the museum offers another side of the race discussion through the creations of Raleigh dollmaker Mary Washington.

They’re beautiful works of art. Yet, for many, they’re more than just porcelain and cloth.

“The history they represent is just incredible,’’ said Greene, a 71-year-old guidance counselor who’s worked in Guilford County for 40 years. “The people they represent weren’t afraid to stand up and be counted, and I want these kids to know their history and expand their horizons.

“They need to see beyond Green Street in High Point and Four Seasons Mall in Greensboro. That is not life, and someone has got to do it.’’

Greene is white. She’s a grandmother who wears a necklace with blocks that carry the names of her nine grandchildren. She doesn’t see color, or so she’s heard her friends say. She just sees the need for education.

Six years ago, she offered to help the High Point Convention and Visitors Bureau raise enough money to keep Washington’s dolls at the museum.

First, she approached Bob Brown, a well-known African American from High Point who runs a public relations firm and has worked with everyone from Robert Kennedy to Nelson Mandela. She ran into him at the String & Splinter, an upscale restaurant in High Point.

“Bob, time is running out,’’ she told him. “Will you give me five minutes?’’

He did. He went by the museum, saw the dolls and told Greene, “Chris, you don’t have to ask anyone else.’’

Brown approached his friends, Curtis and Earline Richardson, and the two families agreed to donate the money needed to keep the dolls in High Point.

“History is a tool that teaches generation after generation,’’ said Curtis Richardson, owner of a safety equipment company. “When someone asks, ‘How did it happen?’ it came from the birth of these individuals, and that’s what these dolls represent. It shows why we pursue the things we do.’’

Before Greene left Danielle Crosby’s class Wednesday, a student named Sarah Little handed her a note.

In her own high school vernacular, Sarah wrote in pencil: “These people fought so we could hang with people of different races. I am glad that today we get to walk in freedom, and we get to go places and hang with different races.’’

Just a doll? I doubt it.

Contact Jeri Rowe at

373-7374 or jrowe

@news-record.com

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