VINCENNES, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– The Red Skelton Museum took a break from looking at the past– instead celebrating present-day Black people who have made a difference in their community on Sunday.

The “Groundbreaking Black Citizens of Knox County” exhibit debuted, honoring nearly a dozen people around the area who have made positive contributions. Vanessa Purdom, who was one of those chosen to be recognized, said she was happy to be a part of the new display.

“We have a lot of notable African-Americans in Knox County, both historically and present, and it was just wonderful to get to reach out to them and hear about what they’re doing currently,” she said. “Anytime we can celebrate diversity and celebrate all of us coming together to enhance and better our community, that’s a positive thing.” 

Purdom said she was contacted by Anne Pratt, the director at the museum, in early January about taking part in the exhibit. She then helped reach out to others in Knox County, and said she was happy to see those efforts come together on Sunday.

“We worked very hard in coordinating and getting things together,” she said. “It’s also very nice because post-COVID, I’ve not seen a lot of these friends. Just to be able to come together and see each other and celebrate diversity in Knox County is just outstanding.”

For the opening of the exhibit, the museum hosted a “meet and greet” for visitors to get a chance to speak with some of the people involved. Bernetta Ann Morris and her husband, Pastor Kenneth Morris, said they felt “blessed” to take part in the event.

“It’s an honor to be honored, to be born right here and for them to take the time to honor us today, I really appreciate that,” Kenneth Morris said.

“It’s just a blessing to be able to be honored in this day in time and to pave the way for the ones that’s coming behind us,” Bernetta Ann Morris added. 

The display was the latest in a series of efforts for the museum to recognize Black history. In February, it opened two other exhibits– one focused on groundbreaking Black Hoosiers around Indiana, and another centered around Skelton himself, and different Black performers and entertainers he worked with throughout his career.

Pratt said she felt it was important for the museum to amplify local voices.

“Red Skelton is from Knox County. And Red Skelton appreciated diversity, he was really somewhat of a groundbreaker in many ways,” she said. “Having African-Americans on his show and being able to showcase that, not only in the exhibit for him but also with the ‘Citizens of Knox County’ today. It just seemed like the logical extension for this exhibit.” 

All three Black history exhibits will be on display for the rest of the month of March. More information about upcoming events at the museum can be found on its website.