"Isn't that a nice ending? But it didn't happen too often, I'm afraid."
The first-graders from the Kentland Elementary School in Prince George's County, sprawling on the floor of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, were as quiet as 40 6-year-olds in one place at one time possibly could be.
The reason was that Zora Martin Felton, the museum's director of education, can turn a panel exhibition with rather formidable text captions into a storytelling venture.
The Kentland first-graders came yesterday to see "The Frederick Douglass Years," a show on exhibit in celebration of Black History Month. It traces the life and times of Douglass, the ex-slave who became a powerful leader for human rights in the 19th century.
The panels and the text words towered above the youngsters. But then Mrs. Felton began her storytelling. There was the nice-ending tale about Joseph Cinque, who led a shipboard revolt of slaves in the Caribbean, landed on Long Island, was defended by former President John Quincy Adams and finally returned to freedom in his native Sierra Leone.
And the first-graders learned how Federick Douglass, at their age, was sent away from the plantation near his mother and how he had to ask white boys and girls to teach him to read and write because the law didn't allow black youngsters to go to school.
And then there was The North Star, the name of the abolitionist newspaper that Douglass founded.
"Why was it called The North Star?" Mrs. Felton asked.
Hands went up, and the fifth youngster had the answer: "The North Star led to freedom."
"The Frederick Douglass Years," a panel exhibition of photographs, silkscreens, and text, will be on display through April 2 at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, 2405 Martin Luther King Ave. SE. It is only a short distance form Cedar Hill, the Douglass home, now maintained by the National Park Service.
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The education department can arrange films on Afro-American history for youngsters and adults.