As a young girl Vernice Jackson never imagined that she would have the opportunity to volunteer for the institution that nourished her
love of history, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. But now, she’ll have the opportunity to do so at the newly built National Museum of African American History and Culture.
When Jackson, an experiential education professional at Lorain County Community College, was little she used to spend her Sundays at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History mesmerized by the exhibits. Years later, she still vividly remembers the experience, recalling how empty exhibits would unnerve her. “So sometimes I might be the only person in a particular gallery and some of them were kind of scary, so sometimes I would go stand outside in the hall and wait till other people came in,” said Jackson.
Many of Jackson’s educational accomplishments are in compliment with her passion for history. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Baldwin-Wallace College and a Master of Science in Organizational Development and Analysis from Case Western Reserve University. On top of several degrees, Jackson helped create Women in History, a non-profit organization that breathes life into the women of American history by portraying their roles in major events.
“I talked about the fact that I was born and raised in D.C. and that I grew up spending time in the Smithsonian and how it always intrigued me.”
Now coming towards the end of her career at LCCC, Jackson thought the next step in her life should involve giving back to her hometown of Washington D.C. To Jackson, the opportunity to teach history through a different lens using the Smithsonian exhibits is vitally important to understanding how the United States was built. “It’s important to have African Americans recognize that the development of the United States was on the back of their ancestors and that’s it’s not something to be ashamed of; it’s something to be proud of because of the resilience of these people we are here today,” said Jackson.
Out of more than 1,000 applicants vying for the position of docent, Jackson was one of fifty selected for the role. She made it through the first round of applicants after applying online. The next step was to submit a five-minute video detailing the qualities that made her best suited for the job.
“Essentially, I talked about the fact that I was born and raised in D.C. and that I grew up spending time in the Smithsonian and how it always intrigued me,” Jackson explained.
Once Jackson passed the second round of applications, she was asked for an onsite interview at the Smithsonian. For the face-to-face interview, Jackson spoke about the Anne Lowe exhibit.
“I talked about her as a designer and about her in terms of how she paralleled another African American designer of the 1800s Elizabeth Keckly,” said Jackson. “That wasn’t part of the display so I think that got me over because I was adding new dimension to the display.
When the museum opened on Sept. 24, Jackson guided visitors through the Smithsonian, acting as mouthpiece for a wide range of exhibits.
Currently, the museum is in possession of just over 37,000 artifacts of African American history. These objects include a fedora worn by Michael Jackson, The banner for the Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women’s Club, and a shawl given to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria.