African American Espionage during the Civil War Exhibit

John G. Riley Museum’s newest exhibit, “African American Espionage during the Civil War” explains African American’s role in the spy network during the Civil War. The exhibit will be available to the public until the end of October.

The John G. Riley Museum is home to many exhibits as the museum changes its exhibit every three months. The museum was once home to Tallahassee educator, John G. Riley who was one of Florida’s first African Americans to earn a state teacher’s certificate.

It is the second house in Florida owned by an African American to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

41 years after his passing, a group of Tallahassee citizens established his home as a museum for African-American history.

The “African American Espionage during the Civil War” exhibit featured information about African American spies including Harriet Tubman, Mary Touvestre, and The Dabneys. There was also authentic weaponry used by Harriet Tubman and civil war artwork created by local and national artists.

The exhibit was borrowed from the Blanchard House Museum in Punta Gorda, Fla.

To accommodate children, they offered spy-like games including decoding top-secret messages and a Mission Possible: Scavenger Hunt.

Barbara Groves, the fiscal manager at John G. Riley museum explained why this exhibit is important.

“The importance of having this exhibit is to educate the younger generations on the contribution of African Americans in the past, particularly women.”

Jonathan Sancho, a Tallahassee native and third-year facility management student at Florida A&M University, interns at the museum. He expressed that working at the museum has taught him so much.

“I didn’t know anything about black spies except Harriet Tubman,” Sancho said. “I didn’t know about John Scobell, and I didn’t know about Bowser. It makes me value who I am as a black person.”

Ivana Tootle, a first-year retail merchandising and product development student at Florida State University (FSU) from Tallahassee, Fla., who also interns at the museum gave her intake on what she learned from the exhibit.

“I knew about the Underground Railroad but I didn’t connect that Harriet Tubman was a spy, that what she was doing was espionage,” Tootle said. “It’s just a way for African Americans to know of their culture and just for anyone in general to learn of the culture.”

The museum hours are Monday-Thursday, 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., at located at 419 E. Jefferson St.