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Exhibit attempts to tell story of rise of black middle class in Tallahassee

By Brandon Jones | Staff Writer
On January 31, 2018

There is a former plantation in Tallahassee offering a quick history lesson on the African American middle class.

The Goodwood Museum and Gardens has a small collection of photos and artifacts in its Ascension Exhibit, depicting life during the reconstruction era for blacks in the South. The exhibit’s purpose was to discuss the ascension and regression that took place between 1865-1877.

The setting of the exhibit seems appropriate because of the history that plantations in the South carry. The property is rather large and spacious but the exhibit is placed in one of the smaller rooms attached to the big house, possibly where slaves may have stayed.

One of the first things visible is a small poster with a brief description of early African American middle class families that originated in Tallahassee. Highlighted was John Gilmore Riley, a man who spent most of his life as an educator and has a museum named in his honor that was once his home.

The other man listed was an actual slave at the Goodwood plantation. Moses Crooms rose from slavery and his last name represented the original owners of Goodwood. A compacted summary could be read about his emancipation at age 15 and a few of his later moves in life.

Although both features were intriguing, it was quite disappointing to find out there were no photos of either men displayed in the exhibit.

A few other posters were displayed defining regression, ascension, and culmination. These gave context on the topic but couldn't help a visitor understand the oppressions and difficulties of the era.

Other photos hung around the exhibit of black men and women that appeared to live in the late 19th and early 20th century. Each photo had a quote underneath it but the tour guide was unable to identify any of them as original quotes. It appeared to just be random photos with quotes that fit the topic.

 In all, the exhibit wasn't terrible but a little more effort could have gone into putting it together.

The exhibit is free and open to the public until April.




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