Bus tour gives conference participants up close look at Black history

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Every one of the stops along the way holds some significance to Black history in Tallahassee that was explained during the Heritage Connecting the Dots Tour. 

Some of the back stories that were told last Friday morning touched on Black people’s contribution to the local economy decades before desegregation. Then, passengers on the two buses heard stories about how painful slavery was.

“Blacks have been a part of this history from the very beginning,” said Dianne Robinson, a historian with Chappie James Museum in Pensacola. “We have to continue and it’s organizations like this that will help connect us together so we can help to continue on with our Black history and telling our story.”

The tour was one of several events that took place during the Florida Emancipation Conference. The three-day event brought members of the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network to Tallahassee from throughout the state.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Spirit of Emancipation Culture Keepers.” It was a tribute to those who demonstrated leadership and advocacy sparked the discovery, recovery, documentation, preservation, and validation of Florida’s emancipation history and culture in this area, said Althemese Barnes, founder of the Riley House and one of the event’s organizers.

The lineup of emancipation events were schedule to celebrate May 20, when the proclamation to end slavery in Florida was read on the steps of Knott House. That event was reenacted Saturday morning.

Prior to that, a ceremony was held at the Old City Cemetery as a “Tribute to the Fallen Soldiers on Behalf of Freedom.”

Some of the other conference events included a workshop and attending a concert at the Adderley Brothers Amphitheater in Cascades Park.  Performances featured the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and Tallahassee Night Live on Friday night.

Earlier in the day, the bus tour set out on a route along Gaines Street and along a section of FAMU Way. They passed through the FAMU campus and along the outskirts Bond neighborhood on the city’s Southside on the way to Jake Gaither Golf Course. 

Tiant DeWindt, supervisor of Golf Operation at Jake Gaither Golf Course, gave the group an abbreviated version of the course’s history.

Pasha Baker found the history of Gaither, which was recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places, fascinating and worthy of celebrating. 

“Here in Tallahassee, an all-White government gave Black folks 6,200 acres of land before desegregation just because they didn’t want (Black) people to play the golf courses,” said Baker, director and CEO of Goldsboro Museum in Sanford. “That’s pretty interesting to me.”

The visitors were also given an up close view of Railroad Square and told of its connection to the Elberta Crate and Box Company, before eventually heading to the Riley House. Goodwood Museum was next, the last stop before heading to Raney School, where the tour concluded.

The conference culminated Saturday evening with the 2nd United States Colored Troops Living History Emancipation Abolitionist Ball.

Using major events such as the conference to celebrate Black history is an essential part to telling the Black story, said Leon Stubbs, who made the trip from Texas.

“I think it’s important especially in an age where information can be shifted so quickly in so many different ways to tell all kinds of stories,” said Stubbs, who lives in Schertz, Texas, where he is a historian and associate with Texas African American Heritage Tourism Initiative. “It is critically important that we have a way of telling accurate stories and maintaining accurate stories. Althemese (Barnes) has been doing an excellent job and I admire what she is doing.”

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