Riley museum a valuable local resource

John G. Riley Center & Museum. Photo courtesy: the center’s website

The John G. Riley Center and Museum includes a visitors’ center where you can learn about the Atlantic slave trade and African artifacts.

Next to the center is John G. Riley’s original house. It includes the original living room, an animatron of Riley and artifacts of what might have been in the house during that time.

The museum is in Smokey Hollow in Cascades Park, where many African Americans lived during the 60s. The segregated neighborhood consisted of educators and business owners.

After Riley’s death, students petitioned to save the house and it was bought by the city.

With Black History Month starting Wednesday, The Riley House plans to host “A Culinary Journey From Africa to America” event with keynote speaker Jessica Harris. It will take place at 6 p.m. March 2 at Cascades Park.

She is a culinary historian, joined by Chef Jack in teaching African culture and culinary traditions that rose from the legacy of slavery.

Within the next couple of months, the museum will have a mini exhibit in the visitors’ center that expounds on information about John G. Riley and what antebellum Tallahassee looked like in the mid-1800s. It will also include a map of the old city, information about Reconstruction and how influential leaders in the Black community came about during the civil rights era.

“There is always room for more research, and I come here everyday and learn something new,” said the museum educator, Hope Evans.

The Riley House will bring back the “Blended Life Program.’’ Students in Leon County Schools will have the chance to tour the Riley House, visit Goodwood Museum and the state Capitol. Musician Earnest Toole will teach a jingle of Tallahassee and Jarvis Rosier will do a reenactment of the United States Colored Troops.

“I have been working here for five years and there is always an opportunity to freshen up on information. A chance to dive into African American history and the importance of knowing your culture, knowing things we have now were already engraved,” said Catina Foster, the projects and programs coordinator.

“The John G. Riley House filled in many missing gaps that I had concerning the history of African Americans and their role in the civil rights movement. I began to understand how important leaders in the community were in shaping the world we know today,” said Conqualla Scott, a resident of Tallahassee.

The John G. Riley Center and Museum is hopeful to keep Riley’s legacy alive and continue teaching the Tallahassee community and beyond about local African American history.