Local historians are the heart of preservation in Tallahassee — and perhaps none more so than Althemese Barnes.
The City of Tallahassee recently recognized Barnes, an author, activist and preservationist as well as a Florida A&M University graduate, when it named part of Cascades Park in her honor.
Barnes is the founder and executive director of the Riley House Museum, a home to many artifacts of African American history and serves as an African American history research center in downtown Tallahassee.
The city is dedicated to honoring citizens whose life work has been to preserve Tallahassee’s history.
“Tallahassee is a city that remembers its past while focusing on the future, one that works to foster a strong sense of community. The dedication of the Althemese Pemberton Barnes Park at Smokey Hollow supports this vision by honoring a Tallahasseean who spent decades of her life enshrining local history,” the city said in a press release.
Barnes’ work includes several oral histories and cultural development projects, historical publications, heritage trail maps, guides and documentaries.
Mayor John Dailey proudly unveiled the plaque that commemorates Barnes.
“Ms. Barnes is a true Tallahassee treasure. Her commitment to preserving Black history has taught us all so much and will profoundly impact generations to come. Residents like Althemese make our neighborhoods special,” Dailey said.
Katie McCormick, chair of the John G. Riley Center board of directors, also congratulated Barnes on this honor.
“I can think of no more deserving person of this honor today with the renaming of the park. It is the sharing of resources that is at the center of Ms. Barnes’ career,” McCormick said.
Barnes gave a heartwarming acceptance speech thanking many for their support and years of dedication to the Riley House.
“There were other retirees that I called on to be volunteer ambassadors and to help establish and grow the community-based Black history museum in Tallahassee. Others in the community stepped forward also to constitute the Riley House Board of Directors to help put policies in place so the doors to the house opened with zero budget,” Barnes said.
Barnes left the crowd with a wise word that sums up how she got to where she is now, being honored with a park in her name.
“When you see the wolf, you see the pack, but the strength of the wolf is in the pack,” Barnes said.
The newly named Althemese Pemberton Barnes Park at Smokey Hollow is in Cascades Park and is open to the public.