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A journey to justice

Zion Union Heritage Museum Art

Executive Director John Reed with Julia Monteiro Johnson, vice president of the museum’s board of directors, and Larry Johnson, a board member. Photo by Teagan Anne

As it celebrates its 10th anniversary—being marked by a gala at the Cotuit Center for the Arts on June 2—the museum is no longer a fledgling organization but a substantial presence. Reed discusses the museum’s growth and development in terms of three phases, the first of which was getting it off the ground. “People said we couldn’t do this. But we are positive thinkers and hard workers with different skills and knowledge,” says Reed, who has served as president of the local NAACP and was equity officer for the Barnstable School District in addition to teaching history at the high school for two decades.

“Phase Two,” he says, was attracting clientele to the educational exhibits. These include memorabilia of pioneers for social justice Margaret Moseley and her friend and ally in spearheading the local branch of the NAACP, Eugenia Fortes. Here, visitors learn why Fortes was dubbed “the Rosa Parks of Cape Cod,” and view the special “Town Watchdog” chair the Barnstable Town Council gave to her, as she attended every meeting. “Eugenia Fortes showed us all the way,” Reed says. “She was a renaissance woman who went on instinct, God and good faith until she got it done.”

There are homages to Cape Verdeans (who are admixtures of Portuguese, African, Jewish and Catholic) and their participation in the Cape economy as whalers, fishermen and cranberry and strawberry growers, as well as those who served in the military, including Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

A case of slave manacles and dog collars near a mannequin of a “black knight of the KKK” are reminders that, although Massachusetts law ended slavery in 1783, bigotry’s fires burned. In 1826, for example, Yarmouth Port demanded that non-whites dig up their dead and move them to a separate part of the town cemetery.

There’s a compendium about the late Joseph Daluz by his wife Dolores, the museum’s historian. Joe helped Reed get his teaching job, advocated to end racial segregation in housing as Barnstable’s building commissioner and was a beloved longtime Cape NAACP president. The Daluzes were instrumental in the growth of Zion.

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