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Mariners’ Museum connects Virginia Beach woman to her roots through 90-year-old photo


Pat Wise-Green hadn’t seen her grandfather, McKinley Banks, since she was 15 years old – until she came across a photo of him building the Mariners’ Museum.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Pat Wise-Green is originally from Newport News. 

Born and raised during the Civil Rights movement, she witnessed black history on the forefront… and so did her grandfather, McKinley Banks.

Banks passed away when Green was only 15, almost a year after she says he was attacked and beaten one night, which left him with several injuries to his head. 

Now, the 76-year-old is getting the chance to learn more about his past and see photos of him when he was young.

The Mariners’ Museum started researching a photo of a group of men who were captured building the foundation and brick walls of the museum about 90 years ago. 

The museum’s Manager of Visitor Engagement, Lauren Furey, says she started a “treasure hunt” to find out who these men were.

“In that photo we have is McKinley Banks,” said Furey. “We knew his name, so he was a great starting point to all of this research.”

RELATED: The Mariners’ Museum offers free, virtual programs for Black History Month

It’s part of the museum’s effort to find “Hidden Histories” in Hampton Roads. 

But Furey says knowing his name wasn’t enough. She wanted to know more, so she reached out to his granddaughter, who happened to be Pat Wise-Green. They connected and she shared more of her grandfather’s stories.

Now, Green can touch the very walls of the Mariners’ Museum Banks that built by hand decades ago. A young girl who once held onto her grandfather, is now holding onto his memories.

Green said losing him was hard, but finding him again has been a journey back to her roots. She said it needed to be discussed more outside of Black History Month, and be involved in more young people’s education.

“It is amazing that blacks, African-Americans, were such an integral part in the building of America, but we play no part in the teaching of it,” said Green. “We should be integrated in the textbooks.”

Green isn’t the only one connecting back to her roots. 

The Mariners’ Museum said it connected another Hampton Roads man to one of the men in the photo. He, too, is older now, looking back on his family history.




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