Radio owned by Herman and Minnie Roundtree


Although there are many objects in the National Museum of African American History & Culture’s collection that are amazing the radio was the first object that took me somewhere else. I imagined Herman and Minnie sitting and listening to voices through static and casually glancing back and fourth between themselves and the world around them. Maybe they are listening to music, or following a drama series, or listening to news. Perhaps the radio was reserved for special occasions or only used during a certain time of day? I’m curious if the radio stations in Indiana were audience based and what role the radio played in daily life, especially for rural African American communities? Did it bring them joy or sadness as they listened? What were Herman and Minnie like? What role did they play in their community? How did they spend their days? There are an infinite number of questions revolving around this object.

This radio is a part of the Power of Place exhibition. On the NMAAHS website it states, “In the exhibition, visitors learn that place is about geography—but also about memory and imagination” (NMAAHS, n.d., Power of Place para. 2). The radio has definitely motivated my imagination and provoked memories.

The radio also drew me in because of my own personal experiences and history. I grew up in a rural community and in a house that was rarely quiet thanks to the radio. The radio sat front and center between two windows in the living room and if you didn’t hear it we probably weren’t home or someone was playing his or her own version of a bluegrass song on the front porch. It is hard to imagine my life without the radio, and I wonder if Herman and Minnie would say the same?

Image credit:

NMAAHC. (n.d.). Radio owned by Herman and Minnie Roundtree [digital image]. Retrieved March 11, 2017, from Power of Place Exhibition


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