The Massillon Museum’s Missing History of Massillon: Unheard African American Stories exhibition will open on Saturday, June 11, with a free public reception from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., in the Aultman Health Foundation Gallery.
Missing History of Massillon: Unheard African American Stories will feature oral histories, archives, photographs, and artifacts celebrating the rich narrative of Massillon’s Black community. Some items in the exhibition will be from the Museum’s permanent collections; some will be recent acquisitions gathered from the community throughout this project.
The Marva L. Dodson CHARISMA Collection will be featured, as will contemporary photographs by Cleveland artist Amber N. Ford.
The exhibit is part of a larger project to increase MassMu’s representation of content and dialogue both reflecting and created by Massillon’s African American community.
Staff and volunteers recorded 30 histories from the past and present. Submissions from the community and scans from the MassMu permanent collection now total more than 2,500 items that document Massillon’s rich Black history. A selection of these will be available on a dedicated online archive (launches June 11). The archive will grow as additional information is collected and more interviews are conducted.
Community members will continue to be encouraged to help preserve the history of African American men and women of Massillon by sharing historic photographs, artifacts, documents, family letters, artworks, uniforms, patches, telegrams, audiovisual recordings and more for digitization and public commemoration.
Funding has been provided in part by Marathon Petroleum Company and by Arthur P. And Martha Q. Underhill through the Massillon Community Charitable Fund at Stark Community Foundation. Individual contributions by Martha MacLachlan, Ginger Green, Heather Pennington, and David Harding have also helped bring the project to fruition. Operating support is provided by ArtsinStark and the Ohio Arts Council, and marketing support by Visit Canton.
The Museum has organized this project in partnership with Sisterhood of Jewels Community Connections, Inc., A Wise Way, and numerous community members.
For more information about Missing History of Massillon: Unheard African American Stories, visit MassMu.org/MissingHistory.
The Massillon Museum is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon. A visit to the Massillon Museum is always free and everyone is welcome. For more information, call the Museum at 330-833-4061 or visit massillonmuseum.org.
About Marva Dodson
Marva L. (Bell-Jones) Dodson is a native Massillonian who was employed as an operating room nurse at Aultman and an office nurse at the former Canton Orthopaedics, Inc. (Spectrum). She retired as the health coordinator for Massillon’s Public Preschool Program and the school clinic nurse at Franklin Elementary School. Her community volunteerism has included the board and executive committees of the Massillon YWCA and Habitat for Humanity of Massillon, Ohio, Inc; membership on the boards of Affinity Medical Center, Community Hospice of Stark and Tuscarawas Counties, and Washington High School Alumni Association.
She serves on the Washington High School Distinguished Citizens and Scholarship committees, Stark County Health Department Medical Reserve Corps, Massillon Chapter of the NAACP, and the Urban League of Greater Stark County. A member of St. James A.M.E. Zion Church of Massillon, she serves on the board’s executive committee, is a life member of the Board of Deaconess, and is president of the Senior Usher Board.
Her areas of interest include researching the history of African Americans in Stark County with emphasis on the contributions of African Americans in Massillon. She frequently exhibits her “CHARISMA” collection (Contributions of Historic African-Americans whose Roots and Influence are Significant to the Massillon Area).
Dodson received ABCD, Inc.’s 2012 “Lifetime Achievement Award,” Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry’s 2019 “Senior Citizen Award,” and One Tiger, Inc.’s 2019 “Heritage Award.”
Mrs. Dodson is the mother of Celeste M. Jones of Middleburg Heights, Ohio.
About Amber N. Ford
Amber N. Ford is an artist and freelance photographer based in Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a BFA in photography from the Cleveland Institute of Art. While her practice is primarily in digital photography, she explores other mediums such as alternative photographic processes, printmaking, and collage art. Ford’s work in portraiture has gained national recognition, appearing in The Atlantic and Washington Post. She has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, the Kent State University Museum, Transformer Station, SPACES Gallery, Youngstown State University, and more.
Ford’s work explores Blackness, identity, and culture, while questioning the accepted idealized conceptualization of “truth.” She describes her artistic practice as a “collaborative engagement between photographer and sitter,” wherein she, the photographer, establishes a platform to which the sitters construct themselves. This allows sitters to appear how they want to be seen, unapologetically, and engages them in the conversation her work prompts.
Ford earned the Ohio Arts Council “Individual Excellence Award” in 2017. She was selected as a 2019 Gordon Square Arts District artist-in-residence for her outstanding achievements in photography. Her community-based photographic mural, “This Story is Mine and Ours,” is located along the north wall of the Gordon Square Arcade. As a 2022 MOCA Cleveland artist-in-residence she is exploring the duality of dying and healing. Ford is the space activation curator at Thirdspace Action Lab (TSAL), a grassroots research, strategy, and design cooperative located in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, where she participates in creating the vision, scope, and execution of TSAL creative programs, projects, and initiatives.
Ford has contributed to the Missing History of Massillon project with contemporary portraits of interviewees and community members.
About the Sisterhood of Jewels
Sisterhood of Jewels Community Connections is a group of women whose mission is to create an inclusive community through programs, networking, and partnerships. Team members include Tierra Pettis, Daja Simpson, Ke’Aunte Tynett, and Latoya Young. Learn more at sisterhoodofjewelscommunityconnectionsllc.com.
About the Massillon Museum
The Massillon Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1933, is a cultural hub where art and history come together. It preserves major collections of photography; costumes, and textiles; china, glass, and pottery; decorative arts; and circus memorabilia. The Museum was first accredited in 1972 by the American Alliance of Museums and has continued to be accredited by the AAM since that time.
Alexandra Nicholis Coon, Executive Director • 330.833.4061 x111
Mandy Altimus Stahl, Archivist • 330.833.4061 x113
Margy Vogt, Public Relations Coordinator • 330.844.1525