Since June, the Growing Up AFRO exhibit has been on display at the Banneker Douglass Museum in downtown Annapolis. The one-of-kind exhibit, previously on display at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, highlights African American life and culture as told through pictures of children.
In African American’s communities where the AFRO published, residents said they “grew up” with the AFRO. They devoured it at home, perused it at the hair salon, barbershop and doctor’s office and chatted up friends about the latest news and developments carried on the newspaper’s pages, from updates in the Civil Rights Movement, to which Black Hollywood and New York celebrities were doing what, to what was happening with our sports teams.
Generations of children grew up learning everything from world news to local culture in the pages of the AFRO, either as paperboys and papergirls reading the paper on their routes or as students being tested by their teachers on current events as relayed by the newspaper.
The biggest thrill, however, was to depicted on the pages of the newspaper.
Sue Carroll Green contacted the AFRO regarding her appearance in the exhibit. A photo of her being assisted as she drank from a water fountain in Seat Pleasant in Prince George’s County in the early 1950s is part of the Banneker display.
“I had a family friend tell me I was on display at the museum,” said Green, adding that she will have something to show her family for generations. “Our family always supported the AFRO and everyone that grew up with the paper simply cherishes it forever.”
By utilizing the AFRO’s vast historic archives, we showcased the different facets of adolescence during the historic era of the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout our history, we provided a kind of public scrapbook of African American communities around the country. There is no greater example of this than Graves Quadruplets.
As the first set of quadruplets born in the state of Maryland at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, the AFRO documented their lives from birth to each important milestone. “The Quads”—Kim Marie, Karen May, Kevin Mark and Katherine Mary—became part of Maryland and AFRO history on October 10, 1959 and have continued to make history in the pages of the newspaper ever since.
“The Quads,” the name by which they were known to AFRO readers, joined eight other Graves children to much fanfare, as was reported in the October 17, 1959 edition of the newspaper. Raised in Annapolis by their parents, George and Lorraine Graves, the family was blessed with aid from a newspaper “fund” and benevolent community aid that helped the large brood to thrive beyond all expectations. The Quads went on to become some of the first African-American children to model for local retailers Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck.
Recently, the AFRO caught up with them soon after their 54th birthday as they viewed the Growing Up AFRO exhibit at the Banneker Douglass Museum.
“We just thought it was normal to be a multiple…,” said the youngest of the four, Katherine Graves Gross. “When we were small, we were always together and people followed us around. It wasn’t until we got older that we realized how special we were.”
The Graves’ championed their mother, now 84, for keeping them to stay centered and for providing a strong spiritual upbringing.
“We never went without,” Kim Graves Knight said. “We got to experience everything growing up…because of our mother. She’s our number one lady. We wouldn’t be here without her.”
The four now each work in as business and medical professionals, including Karen Graves Beans. Kevin Graves, the only boy, retired after a successful career in the military and recently earned a degree in divinity.
The Growing Up AFRO exhibit will be on display at the Banneker Douglass Museum in Annapolis through Jan. 21.