African American Guide to Savannah
My daughter and I are very passionate about our African American History. Savannah is the perfect city to explore our Southern African American Roots because Savannah is home to several Monuments and Tours dedicated to African American History.
One of my favorite Tours was the First African Baptist Church (Stop # 2 on the Old Town Savannah Trolley Tours). Where we paid a small Tour Fee of $7.00 for adults ($6.00 for Students) . If you watch The Real House Wives of Atlanta this is the church on a past Season that the ladies visited and Portia Stewart questioned was a real live train ran under the church LOL and SMH! This church was the very first church built by and established by Slaves in the United States of America. This church played a very important part in the ” Underground Railroad, as they would provide a safe haven for slaves looking to get to the river to head north and obtain there freedom! Our Guides walk you through the church showing you the original pews built by the slaves, allowing you to see the floors that the slaves hid under and used to crawled their way to freedom, and giving you the history of the churches founders and Pastors. This church was also home to the very first Credit Union for African American Parishioners and became the home to many Civil Rights Meetings. The Church still holds regular Sunday Services at 9am and 10am. The churches current Pastor is Thurmond Neil Tillman. I highly recommend this tour. It left my daughter in I in tears. BTW: They no longer allow pictures in the inside of the Church due to past Visitors taking pictures and selling them on post cards
Other African American sites and Monuments
Old Town Trolley Stop #2: The Haitian Monument for Haitian Slaves who fought in the American Revolution. Fighting for our independence from England in the Siege of Savannah. These Soldiers are recognized by a monument in Franklin Square.
Old Town Trolley Stop #1: Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum Ralph Mark Gilbert was the pastor of the historic First African Baptist Church from 1939 to 1956. He was a visionary, seeking to improve the lives and opportunities of African Americans.
Old Town Trolley Stop #6 The King-Tisdell Cottage The King-Tisdell Cottage is an African-American heritage museum named for its African-American owners, Eugene and Sarah King, and Sarah King and Robert Tisdell. This museum of African-American Savannah and the Sea Islands is owned and operated by the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation, which also owns and operates the Negro Heritage Trail Tours and the Beach Institute on the corner of Price and Harris Streets
Laurel Grove Cemetary at 802 W. Anderson St.Savannah, GA 31415: Laurel Grove North Cemetery is located on the west side of Savannah on a portion of the former Springfield Plantation. Named after the native laurel oak trees which once inhabited the site, the cemetery was developed in 1850 as the Old Cemetery (Colonial Park Cemetery), the Old Jewish Cemetery, Potter’s Field, and the Old Negro Cemetery approached capacity. Laurel Grove North is unique in that the interment rights to all of the available cemetery lots were sold out during the Victorian Era, and, as a result, this park-like cemetery probably has the highest concentration of Victorian period cemetery architecture in the Southeast. The 67-acre cemetery was designed around a natural ravine and included a large Central Green with curving roadways. A Keeper’s House, Porter’s Lodge, Gazebo, and Public Holding Vault were built by 1853, and these historically-significant structures are used by today’s Department of Cemeteries. The cemetery is open to the public daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A satellite office of the Department of Cemeteries is located in the Laurel Grove Administrative Building at 802 West Anderson Street.
Old Town Trolley Stop #11 African American Monument on River Street
Erected on July 27, 2002, the African-American Monument depicts a family of four embracing after emancipation while chains representing slavery lie at their feet. Standing just behind the Hyatt Hotel on the river walk, this beautiful monument is the first in Savannah to recognize the contributions made by African Americans.
The monument was designed by Savannah College of Art and Design Professor Dorothy Spradley. She was assisted by one of her students, Dan Koster, who built the architectural model for the monument.
The inscription, by poet Maya Angelou, reads:
We were stolen, sold and bought together from the African continent. We got on the slave ships together. We lay back to belly in the holds of the slave ships in each others excrement and urine together, sometimes died together, and our lifeless bodies thrown overboard together. Today, we are standing up together, with faith and even some joy.
Savannah’s Beach Institute: built in 1867 by the Freedmen’s Bureau, was established by the American Missionary Association for the education of newly freed slaves. The school was named for New Yorker Alfred S. Beach, editor of the Scientific American, who donated funds to purchase the site.
Staffed primarily by white female teachers from the north, 600 students initially enrolled the school. In 1875, it was turned over to the Savannah Board of Education, and it became a free public school for black children.
The Beach Institute closed in 1919 when enrollment declined due to the opening of other area schools. The Institute now serves as an African-American Cultural Center and offers a full schedule of programs and exhibits which feature arts and crafts with a African-American influence, including a collection of wood carvings by Ulysses Davis, a renowned folk artist. It is also home to the offices of the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation.
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