Mrs. Sanders landed a job as an English teacher at a Junior High School in Washington, DC and as a new teacher, she was given a very challenging class as far as discipline is concerned. She needed something to capture their attention and make each student responsible for something. She came up with a project idea. The name of the project was, “Who am I? It had to be a visual, self-created, and be presented verbally in class. She was so in awe by the caliber of work that the students created, she displayed them all, including her own. She observed an extreme high degree of self-esteem among the students and that single observation resulted in the idea to collect all sorts of items representing the Black experience.
- A set of biographical drawings of Famous African Americans entitled, “They Had a Dream” were ordered for a display during Black History Month in my classroom.
- Books containing biographies of blacks were acquired from various places for students to research projects for their English classes. These books had to be gotten from various places because the media center had very little to offer on the life and accomplishments of Blacks.
- Realizing that the enthusiasm among the students was heightening, other artifacts were collected for exploration. Some of the items collected were calendars, paintings, post cards, black magazines, newspaper articles and pamphlets. All of the like items were stored together for easy retrieval. Mrs. Sanders continued to collect all sorts of artifacts in an effort to give her students a different perspective of themselves. The collecting really turned into an obsession.
- MSgt. Wilbert Gettys of the U.S. Air Force visited the school with an impressive collection for Black History Month. Mrs. Sanders was so impressed with his collection that she organized her collection items and named them, “Black Footprints: Blacks-Past and Present.” Not only did she name and collect the items, she started to do presentations and exhibits with these items singling out “building self-esteem” as the theme.
- The Black Footprints Collection grew into thirteen presentations. They are: “Teaching Self-Esteem through the Use of Black Dolls”, “The Man Himself: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”, “Kings and Queens of Africa”, “Black Women in the Struggle”, “Black Men in the Struggle”, “Beating the Odds-Sports’ Figures”, “Slavery Artifacts”, “Books and Scrapbooks Chronicling the Black Experience”, “Black Dress, African Attire andAccessories”,“Various Black History Quizzes”, “Black Artifacts and Memorabilia”, “Black Inventors and their Inventions-Black Scientists and their Discoveries” and “What If”-A 45 minute story and skit of what happens when many inventions and discoveries by Blacks disappeared from society.
- Black Footprints: Blacks-Past and Present materialized and became a massive, organized and presentable collection which Mrs. Sanders displayed on a large scale in the Tri-County area of South Carolina.
- B. R. I. G. H. T. (Blacks Righting Injustices and Gaining High Triumphs) Historical Organization, Inc. a 501(c) 3 Non-Profit, Tax Exempt Organization was founded to support the Black Footprints Collection.
- The first Board of Directors was selected. The positions are: Executive Director, President, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, Historian and General Manager.
- An office was set up; a logo showing two black footprints was researched and adopted. The logo appears on all business cards, stationery and collection items.
- Scheduled presentations at schools, churches, community centers, boys’ and girls’ clubs became frequent. Mattie Sanders; Executive Director transported and presented the traveling exhibits.
- The collection is database catalogued item by item, showing name, origin, cost, description, manufacturer, size, color, and category. This information is contained in a barcode on each item.
- The doll collection originally named “Teaching Self-Esteem Through the Use of Black Dolls” updated to “Dolls Imitating Humans” with an added section on “Diversity in the Family.” The doll collection is now numbering over 2,000. The following mini exhibits also compose the collection. They are: Dolls in Life Roles such as performing chores, showing patriotism and careers, etc. Dolls demonstrating Celebrations and Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Family Reunions, Rites of Passage, etc. Moods/Feelings/Atmosphere such as happiness or anger is shown through facial expressions and body posture. Health Issues such as amputees, cancer awareness, blindness, etc. Dolls as a Family with brothers, sisters,parents, grandparents, etc. Dolls demonstrating Recreation and Sports activities. Dolls showing Appearances through hairstyles, size, shape and various outfits. The Melting Pot depicts dolls from America and around the world and Stereotypical Images called Pick-a-nin-nies.
- Parts of the Collection have been exhibited at The Black Expo in Charleston, South Carolina, Annapolis Naval Academy, Trident Technical College and hundreds of schools, churches and community centers.
- Accounts of the Collection have been reported on television, radio, magazines and newspapers.
- In 2009, two thousand dolls were exhibited in Berkeley Middle School’s Cafeteria in Moncks Corner, SC over spring break.