History Center exhibit carries on Rochester’s black history

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(ABC 6 News) – As February nears its end, so does Black History Month. One exhibit at the History Center of Olmsted County is making sure the stories of those who developed Rochester’s black community to be what it is today, live on.

“It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is. If you’re a part of the community, it should be known,” Joyce Gibbs, a co-creator of the Community Connections: African Americans in Rochester exhibit said.

89-year-old Gibbs moved to Rochester in the 60s. Moving around the country with her husband George who was in the Navy. They moved because he got a job at IBM. A company that would play a vital role in the black community and in the life of George Thompson. One of George’s co-workers.

“I only saw another person after being here for two weeks and decided that we need to – I found other people, I said ‘let’s make a club,” said Thompson. Thompson is also a contributor and co-creator of the exhibit.

From there the Trendsetters was born. Creating an outlet for blacks to come together for worship, sports, holidays, and everything in between. Thompson is one of the co-founders.

“We had that club for 10-15 years. And the women said, ‘hey, we can do something similar.’ So they started something called the EbonSisters.”

Joyce’s late husband made his own history. Becoming the first black person to visit Antarctica. You know Gibbs Elementary in Rochester? It’s named after him.

“My husband did a whole lot of work. Was trying to unify people. So he was always joining something and helping out with something.

Now Joyce and Thompson help carry the path forward.

“It just takes one person to stand up to say ‘this is not right,'” said Thompson.

Joyce added: “For the past 59 years, Rochester has come a long way. And I still think Rochester has a long way to go.”

Black History Month might be near its end but the history and legacies of the people who helped develop the African American community in Rochester, are not.