Community applauds relocation of historic black barbershop

Cicero Hartsfield, one-time resident of Smokey Hollow, cuts the ceremonial ribbon.
Photo credit: Tajae Jones 


The historic Raleigh Powell Barbershop is finally enjoying some familiar company.

The barbershop, a landmark in the former Smokey Hollow neighborhood, formally joined the tribute to the one-time black neighborhood in Cascades Park.

The John G. Riley Museum, Blue Print 2000, and City of Tallahassee Planning, Land Management and Community Enhancement (PLACE) held an open house on Monday to honor the relocation of the barbershop.

More than 100 people, including community members, politicians and former Smokey Hollow residents gathered to observe this event. 

 “We think about these things as just yesteryear, we know that on Wednesday of this week we’re going to be commemorating the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years since his assassination.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum noted that Smokey Hollow was a vibrant community in the shadow of the Capitol before it was demolished in the 1950s and ’60s as more state buildings were erected.

“When you think 50 years back, some of you were alive during that time. It wasn’t that long ago that separate and unequal was the order of the day. Now we get to sit here in a very diverse community commemorating and celebrating the contributions and the lives of people who during that time were just doing their regular business. Today they get to be looked upon as great servant leaders and people upon whose lives we now build additional steps,” Gillum said.

Delmas Barber, the only person to receive a live haircut during the relocation ceremony by Melvin Gillam of Gillam Brothers Barber Shop.
Photo credit: Tajae Jones 

Nick Maddox, chairman of Leon County Commission, followed Gillum’s speech with a message about the importance of preserving African American barbershops for young men. Especially those who may not have a father figure or community role model to look to when entering manhood. 

“This spot, this place right here was probably among one of the most important locations in Smokey Hollow for a young boy looking to become a man. Every man that’s here today, that’s African American, remembers the first time they walked into the barbershop to get a haircut. If you were fortunate enough to have your father bring you here, you remember that bond, that graduation into manhood you felt like you achieved once you sat in that chair and had those clippers touch your head,” said Maddox.  

“Mr. Powell and Mr. Kilpatrick did more than just build a building and provide a service, they produced men in this building. They produced men who would carry on the legacy of community,” Maddox added. 

Delmas Barber, a former student at John G. Riley elementary school and now a board member of the Riley House Museum, has always felt affiliated with the community in some way. 

“It’s been a pleasure to give back, to help preserve that which we have forgotten. You have to remember the weakest ink lasts longer than the strongest memory, you have to write it down,” said Barber. 

“You don’t want everything that’s about us to die, and in order for it live on it has to be somewhere for those who come behind us to be able to view and read and feel the spirit of what’s going on. If you let the spirit die then the body is gone,” Barber added. 

Shanqueria Howard, a recent graduate of Florida A&M University who works as membership and communications officer at the Riley House Museum, said that the collective work of everyone made for a great turnout. 

“It made them happy to see that their community was able to give them something back that they lost in the Smokey Hollow community. Family and friends are just really happy that they can come back and see this historic barbershop,” Howard said.