Black History Month isn’t limited to celebrating better-known African-American leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglass. This month, we’re also recognizing the contributions of local African-American historical figures, like John G. Riley who dedicated his life to building up Tallahassee’s black community. Even as February comes to a close, we invite you to recognize and learn about Tallahassee’s own black history throughout the year.
- John G. Riley House and Museum: Although born in a slave in 1857, John Gilmore Riley (pictured above) was better known in Tallahassee’s African-American community as a leader and educator. He gained freedom and spent 49 years educating, founding Lincoln Academy (which would later become present-day Lincoln High School) in the process. Riley’s house stands as one of the last reminders of Smokey Hollow, an African-American middle-class neighborhood — a triumph in the post-Civil War-era south.
- Florida A&M University: Founded in 1887, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University is the oldest historically black university in the state of Florida, and its campus is home to a wealth of African-American history, including the Black Archives. While the university celebrates its past, its alumni are currently making history. Alumni include Microsoft Chairman John W. Thompson, Tony-award winning actress Anika Noni Rose, and current Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
- Black Archives Research Center and Museum: Florida A&M University’s Carnegie Library houses at the Black Archives Research Center and Museum, which has collected more than more than 500,000 archival records detailing the lives of black Floridians. The museum has been curated since the ‘70s and hosts more than 150,000 visitors per year.
- The Kinsey Collection: In time for Black History Month, the FAMU recently unveiled a new exhibit courtesy of the Kinsey Collection, which is s owned and curated by FAMU graduates Bernard and Shirley Kinsey. The collection features a range of rare documents and artifacts spanning about 400 years of history. While the Black Archives are open year round, FAMU the Kinsey Collection will be on display from now until March 25, so plan you catch a glimpse of this soon.