Through People and Places, Leon County Celebrates
Tallahassee’s African American History
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2020)– Home to one of the best known Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the nation and a wealth of African American heritage sites, Leon County invites you to celebrate the region’s history and the impact African Americans have made on the country. It’s a story of struggle, perseverance and achievement with a legacy that includes art, music, literature, science and architecture. From being the first location in Florida to hear a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation on the steps of the Knott House Museum to residents playing a vital role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Tallahassee has been witness to pivotal moments in history in both Florida and the US.
All month long, Leon County Tourism invites residents and visitors to explore the places and people whose courage and vision have made significant contributions to our region, both past and present.
For a complete list of African American heritage sites as well as upcoming events throughout the month of February, check out VisitTallahassee.com.
Frenchtown Walking Trail – Soul Voices
Recently launched by the John G. Riley House, Soul Voices of Frenchtown features nine markers with audio components of the voices of its prominent residents both living and deceased telling the story of Frenchtown, one of Tallahassee’s oldest African American communities. Through these voices, visitors will discover, learn and celebrate a time when Frenchtown was a thriving, self-sustaining community of families, homes, businesses and pride – a time when Frenchtown had it all.
John G. Riley House Museum and Smokey Hollow
The John G. Riley Center/Museum for African American History & Culture, Inc. is a historical and cultural gem that represents the thriving black neighborhood, known as Smokey Hollow that once existed in what is just east of downtown Tallahassee. It is especially significant when compared to other such historical sites in that it is the last vestige we have of the accomplishments of an entire group of people, the black middle class, which emerged in the latter part of the 19th century. Established in 1996, the museum’s programs provide an environment and means to encourage and empower participants to develop an awareness of and gain an appreciation for the educational and social contributions of African Americans to Florida’s history.
Florida A&M University
Established in 1887, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) was founded as the State Normal College for Colored Students. Today, as one of 103 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) in the nation, FAMU remains the only HBCU in Florida's 12-member state university system. The first president, Thomas DeSaille Tucker and legislator Thomas Van Renssaler Gibbs, guided the school’s beginning including its move from Copeland Street to its present location on the most prominent hill in Tallahassee. FAMU offers 97 degree programs and has an enrollment of more than 10,000 students. The university is also home to the Meek-Eaton Archives Research Center & Museum.
Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center & Museum
In 1976, the Carnegie Library on the historic campus of Florida A & M University became the founding home of the Black Archives Research Center and Museum. Known as the “Black Archives,” the center’s mission includes collecting, preserving, displaying and disseminating information about African Americans and people of Africa worldwide and is one of only 10 Black archives in the country. The museum is the permanent home of the Kinsey Collection “Flourishing Roots of our Past” that focuses on the key contributions made by African Americans to the country and its stability. Due to generous contributions from the public, the center’s holdings consist of more than 500,000 individual archival records and more than 5,000 individual museum artifacts.
Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Sidewalk
Located downtown on the corner of Monroe and Jefferson Streets, the Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Sidewalk tells the story of the city’s 1956 bus boycott and the lunch counter sit-in demonstrations of 1960-1963.
Knott House Museum
The historical home of former state official William Knott and his wife, Luella served as temporary Union Headquarters and is where the Emancipation Proclamation was first read to Floridians on May 20, 1865. A reenactment of the reading is part of an annual celebration each May.
The Grove Museum
Built by enslaved craftspeople, the ca. 1840 Call-Collins House at The Grove is one of the best-preserved antebellum residences in Florida. Home to several generations of the Call and Collins families, mostly recently LeRoy and Mary Call Collins, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
The mission of The Grove Museum is to preserve and interpret the Call-Collins House, its surrounding acreage and its historical collections, in order to engage the public in dialogue about civil rights and American history.
Other notable African American heritage sites include:
- Battle of Natural Bridge Historic State Park, where two regiments of U.S. Colored Troops among Union forces fought against the Confederates.
- Bradfordville Blues Club, Florida’s first site to be listed on the National Blues Trail.
- First Presbyterian Church, built in 1838, this prominent Classic Revival style building still has its original gallery set aside for slaves who were members of the church but sat apart from their masters.
- Old City Cemetery, Tallahassee’s first public cemetery served as the burial place for both African Americans and whites as early as 1829. Laws at the time required African Americans be buried in the western half of the cemetery. After 1937 most African Americans were buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
- Tallahassee Museum, offers various historic structures including the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, the state’s first organized black church.
- Taylor House Museum, historic home of Lewis W. Taylor and a museum of African American history, culture and civil rights.
For a complete list of African American heritage sites, check VisitTallahassee.com.
For more information, contact Scott Lindeman, Leon County Division of Tourism at Scott.Lindeman@VisitTallahassee.com / (850) 606-5322 or Mathieu Cavell, Leon County Community and Media Relations at cavellm@LeonCountyFL.gov or (850) 606-5300.
About The Leon County Division of Tourism/Visit Tallahassee: The Leon County Division of Tourism (Visit Tallahassee) is the official destination marketing organization for Tallahassee-Leon County. Tourism is charged with marketing Tallahassee-Leon County nationally as a premier leisure, business and sports destination through direct sales, advertising, public relations, sports and visitor services. Named as one of Southern Living’s top 10 Cities of the South, in 2019, Tallahassee-Leon County welcomed 2.4 million visitors who contributed $1.04 billion in economic impact and accounts for more than 16,150 people employed in our community in the tourism & hospitality industry. For more information, go to VisitTallahassee.com or call toll free (800) 628-2866. Engage with Visit Tallahassee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #iHeartTally and #Trailahassee.
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