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Shackles, artifacts part of 'history on wheels'
Mable Sims takes her collection on the road to help students envision the past.
By Paulette Lash Ritchie, Times Correspondent
Published February 28, 2008
BROOKSVILLE - In the mall behind the front office at Challenger K8, Mable Sims opened the door to a sometimes troubling past for dozens of students.
Sims, 61, of Brooksville had brought her extensive collection of local artifacts to the school for two days as part of Black History Month. Among the tarnished lanterns, rusty-looking irons, wood carvings, a washboard and an old jug were a set of shackles that had once been used to keep slaves under control.
Eighth-grader Nathalia Botero, 14, was fascinated by them. "It's interesting how her ancestors came here by boat," she said, noting how crowded conditions were in the slave ships of the day.
Classmate Jessica Doolittle, 13, said of the shackles, "It's like so ancient, so old."
Until 2000, Sims had been a Head Start teacher, but a back injury led her to retire. After six years she felt haunted by the need to teach. "So, I become history on wheels," she said.
Sims had many African items on display, but at the end of one table she included her Oriental collection. She takes her collections to schools, churches and other places when she is invited.
One student asked Mable Sims why she didn't sell her collection on eBay. She asked the sign-of-the-times child, "How would I teach you with cash?"