Though Black History Month is right around the corner, the commemoration of African-American heritage can hardly be limited to one month. Tallahassee, Fla. celebrates African-American culture all year long with a wealth of heritage sites offering a glimpse into the people, places and events that shaped the black experience in Tallahassee and Florida.
As the first city in Florida to hear the Emancipation Proclamation, Tallahassee’s storied history dates back to the plantation lifestyle, moving forward into the post-slavery world where the accomplishments of prominent black figures sparked the development of thriving African-American communities.
With the help of former slave and local civic leader John G. Riley, newly freed slaves settled in Frenchtown and Smokey Hollow, neighborhoods that became a hub for African-Americans looking to establish a sense of place in Florida’s capital city. Boasting residents like Ray Charles and jazz greats Nat and Cannonball Adderley, these communities played a major role in Tallahassee’s growth and development.
Today, Riley’s former home in Smokey Hollow stands stately as a tribute to African-American’s fight for freedom — the last visible evidence of the once-thriving community. Erased by urban renewal in 1960 and now occupied by community center Cascades Park, Smokey Hollow’s rich heritage was revived with a village-like spiritual capstone in the signature park, featuring replicas of shotgun houses, a reflection pool, community vegetable gardens and a fully-restored barbershop — all designed by a committee of two dozen former Smokey Hollow residents.
In addition to the Riley Museum and Smokey Hollow, Tallahassee plays hosts to additional heritage sites and events, from the Southeast’s most extensive collection of ancient Ethiopian artifacts and Florida’s first organized black church to African dance performances and cultural festivals.
With so much to offer, Florida’s capital city remains the premier destination in which to absorb the abundant lessons culled from the state’s history.
For more information visit www.VisitTallahassee.com.