The Carrie Meek-James N. Eaton Sr. Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum celebrated the opening of a new exhibit last Thursday.
Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor sponsored the reception. Voices Poetry Group and the Music Entertainment Industry Student Association performed before and during the exhibit opening. Guests from Southern Conference on African American Studies, Inc. were also in attendance.
The theme, “The Struggle Continues … Emancipation to the Obama Era,” focused on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the social advancement of African-Americans.
But the focus of the night was the revealing of the new Harriet Tubman exhibit.
Spectators were able to view her personal pistol and ivory-handle sword, which were loaned to the Black Archives by Tubman’s descendants, the Brickler family. These pieces will remain in the archives until the end of the month.
Alex Brickler IV, a master of applied social science-history graduate student and the great, great nephew of Tubman, gave historical reflections of how history suffuses his life academically and personally.
“When my father told me, ‘You’re related to Harriet Tubman,’ that kind of blew my mind,” Brickler said. “That’s a bombshell to drop on a seven-year-old child. And then they (family) blew my mind again when I was in middle school and they said, ‘Yeah, we have Harriet Tubman’s pistol and saber.'”
Brickler said he was, too young to understand the overall significance of being related to a legend such as Tubman, but as he grew to understand his history, it planted a seed.
“I went to Morehouse (College) where I majored in history,” Brickler said. “They give you a very Afrocentric perspective on history, and that laid the seed. It planted the seed in a better fertile ground.”
He said he was able to better understand the significance of his family’s history after that.
“Really finding out again and being able to reassess my relationship with Harriet Tubman, it really makes me appreciate it that much more,” Brickler said. “I feel like I’m a little bit better in tune, not only with the artifacts but with her.”
Dr. Elizabeth Dawson, archivist and curator of the Black Archives, is thankful the museum was entrusted with rare artifacts that impact national history and connects with discussions and scholarship across the world.
“We’re talking about Harriet Tubman,” Dawson said. “We’re talking about a family in our local community that has the bloodline of Harriet Tubman. So the Brickler family, in sharing these historical, intimate and guarded family treasures, was an act of far-reaching generosity that’s going to touch and inspire people of all generations, all ethnic groups, all ages and all interests.”
JeLissa Taylor, a pre-physical therapy student, believes the event gave insight on the importance of black history.
“They are trying to emphasize that our history just doesn’t stop at President Obama,” Taylor said. “We make up the history ourselves. They are trying to get young people and encourage young people to realize our importance in black history.”