GSU brings international sports reputation, especially with its football legacy, and the Eddie G. Robinson Museum is the only HBCU museum of its kind
Elaine Nicholas, the National Museum of African American History and
Culture’s senior curator of culture, visits GSU/Robinson Museum.
By TIERRA SMITH
Grambling State University Media Bureau
GRAMBLING, LA — Grambling State University will be featured in the National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens in Washington, D.C., in spring 2016.
"Having a space in a prominent museum like the new National Museum of African American History and Culture just for Grambling State will bring more attention to GSU and its students and alumni,” said Frank G. Pogue, the university president. “I look forward to visiting Washington, D.C., to see it after the museum opens."
The museum is the only national museum devoted solely to documenting the history and culture of African Americans. “(It) will tell the American story through the lens of the African American experience,” said Elaine Nicholas, the museum’s senior curator of culture during a recent (April 16) visit to the GSU campus. “Eleven exhibits will tell those stories using ionic artifacts.”
Grambling State, with a primary focus on its legendary football program, will be joined by a section featuring longtime GSU head football coach Eddie G. Robinson, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I football. In addition, there will be an area dedicated to the Bayou Classic.
“Grambling history has not only influenced HBCU sports but other collegiate and professional sports,” said Damion Thomas, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland College Park and the museum’s curator.
Nicholas and Thomas, who are actively involved with the production of the museum, toured Grambling State campus and the Eddie G. Robinson Museum as a part of a visit to determine which objects might best represent the school, the museum and the Bayou Classic. The visitors said they got a great sense of Grambling State tradition, Robinson’s lasting legacy, the people and community.
“One of the main goals today was to start the conversation about the objects needed to tell Grambling’s story,” said Thomas. With the help of Pogue, he and others worked with Wilbert Ellis, a former GSU baseball coach and president of the Friends of The Eddie G. Robinson Museum, and the Robinson family to identify some likely museum prospects, including some of Robinson’s playbooks and some of Coach Rob’s players’ jerseys worn by some of his most famous football players.
The national museum exhibit will include memorabilia from the Bayou Classic, the only HBCU classic football game that is televised nationally. “Out of all of the HBCU classics, the Bayou Classic is number one,” said Aaron James, the GSU athletic director.
“Bayou Classic is the Super Bowl of Classics,” added Dotti Belletto, president and CEO of NOCCI, the New Orleans-based company that manages the Bayou Classic for Grambling State University and Southern University. “These are traditions we want our children, and their children to experience. There has to be something that ties all of us together.” Belletto said Pogue deserves a lot of credit for making this happen.
“Grambling State has a special place and a special role among all colleges and universities, including but not limited to HBCUs,” said Pogue, who hosted a small, private lunch for the visitors in the museum’s Doris Robinson Room. “This school is known across the state, across the region, across the nation and across the world.”
Since being established by the U. S. Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003, the museum has collected 27,000 artifacts. The museum will cost $540 million to build, with half of the money being provided by the United States government and the other half raised by public-private partnerships.
Other historically black universities scheduled to be featured in the museum include Howard University, Southern University, Florida A&M, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University and the annual Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament, commonly called the CIAA Basketball Tournament.
Elaine Nicholas tours the Robin Museum, to be featured in the new National Museum of African
American History and Culture.