African American Museum will honor Orange citizens
Known as “Jitter” by many in Orange, Henry Lowe, 74, has not only made history but now wants to start collecting it to open an African American Museum.
Lowe has started his research and is in the very early planning stages of what is needed to open a museum. First of all he is writing the by-laws and looking at what museums of this type have to offer the public.
His hope is to inspire the youth and to give them something to be proud of in the community.
“If It can turn around just one youth, that would make me happy,” Lowe said.
He wants them to be proud of their heritage and feels many have no idea of their family history.
“It’s not we were slaves, then we were free and that’s it,” Lowe said. ‘It is our job to showcase our history.”
Lowe has a history of his own as a jockey. He rode quarter horses across the country at the age of 11. He weighed about 45 pounds and was small in stature which made him a good candidate for the races. However, his mother wanted him to get an education so he moved home to Orange where he attended Emma Wallace High School. But, his calling as a jockey called him back to the sport he loved.
In 1956 the life of an African American is Orange or anywhere else in the south was not always pleasant.
‘I was raised to know how to act around white people and knew if you didn’t then you would get into trouble.”
He was not looking for trouble while walking on 6th Street many years ago but he was shot at by some white men, according to Lowe.
‘The shots kept coming until they ran out of bullets,” Lowe said.
A bullet passed close enough to his head which burned his hair as it passed.
He later learned the shooting incident was because a law had passed allowing African Americans the right to vote.
“It voting was that important they wanted to kill me then I was going to make sure I voted every time I could from then on,” Lowe said.
To this day he still exercises his right to vote, he added.
By 1961 he was serving in the Army. After two years of service he returned home to Orange.
Since then he has become active in his community. The thought of a museum based on the history of the African Americans in Orange is something he has thought about doing for quite a while.
“I want to teach the children about their past and honor the pioneers,” Lowe said.
His intentions for the museum will have less art and be more about the people. He says there are plenty of famous people who are commonly known for their accomplishments, but he wants to make the citizens of Orange have their ‘bright shining star” as well.
Sports has been a big star maker and Orange has had their share.
‘I am not after more famous people like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, just the local stars,” Lowe said.
They include people like Ernie Ladd, Claude Boyette and his family member Garland Boyette and Kevin Smith who all played professional football. But, he also intends to include recent history makers as well with Earl Thomas who currently plays football. Lowe took video of a football camp and intends to showcase it at the museum.
In addition, Orange has its’ share of music legends as well. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was recently recognized with historical marker for his accomplishments.
But, some people may have not been famous but made their contribution as well. One such person is a mid-wife who was known as Ms. Knox. Lowe is looking for her records.
“During her time as a mid-wife, she delivered most of the African American children in the area,” Lowe said. “I want to honor her and let people know what she did.”
Lowe has his sights on a location for the building to hold the museum, but thinks it’s important to have one of historical value. Therefore, he is looking at a building located at the corner of Park and Second Streets. At one time this neighborhood was the place to go for the African American community. Now a vacant lot but once was filled with area businesses such as barber shops, drug stores, a theater, pool halls, and dry cleaning stores. But, they were torn down and all that is left is the memories.
Lowe is looking to find trophies from the winning seasons of football, track and more from the Emma Wallace High School. He also wants to collect pictures. He is hoping to find information from an older generation who may have stories to share with the museum.
When completed the museum will be an “education for all races”
Those who want to help with the museum, have artifacts to share or a story to tell only need to contact the man known as “Jitter.”
Photo: Henry Lowe holds a notebook filled with pictures of his days as a jockey.