On September 12, 2019, Telfair Museums announced the Legacy of Slavery in Savannah Initiative, working with the community to consider how the legacies of slavery still manifest in our city and what we can do to work toward justice. This effort is multifaceted and seeks to engage local Savannahians, artists, scholars, and activists.
This interdisciplinary effort examines the historical roots of present-day conditions of racial inequality and uncovers dimensions of the black freedom struggle that remain underexplored: how the region’s black residents’ political, economic, social, cultural, and educational pursuits have been shaped by persistent racial discrimination whose roots stretch back to chattel slavery. This initiative will offer audiences and readers a unique and timely account of the connection between a troubled past and the present on Georgia’s coast.
Community Engagement: Throughout 2020, museum staff, project artists, and project scholars will visit community centers around the city to discuss the possibilities for the project. We will specifically be asking what we can do better, how we have failed in the past, and how we can work toward justice in the future.
In addition, Telfair Museums is partnering with other organizations in Savannah to form a coalition that will explore claiming the Chatham County lynching memorial from the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Exhibition: During Summer 2020, artist Sonya Clark will organize a community workshop in Savannah with Telfair Museums and invite the Savannah community to participate in the creation of new cyanotypes that will be added to her work. In Fall 2020, the updated work will be installed in Telfair’s Jepson Center for the Arts. The exhibition, known as Sonya Clark: Find Freedom, explores the search for freedom via the underground railroad.
Symposium: Fourteen scholars from around the country have been invited to explore the diverse legacies of slavery in our region. (See scholars and topics on reverse.)
Publication: The findings of our scholars, along with images from the exhibition and oral histories, will be published by University of Georgia Press in 2021 as The Legacy of Slavery in Savannah.
Scholars and Topics
Melissa Cooper & Talitha LeFlouria – Oral history and the legacy of slavery in Savannah
Andrew Kahrl – coastal capitalism, black land loss, and gentrification
Jamil Drake – Portrayals of Religion in the Federal Writers’ Project
Fath Davis Ruffins – Interpreting Slavery at historic sites in the South
Jelani Favors – Black student activism
Maurice Hobson – Geopolitical history of Savannah’s development since 1965
Felicia Jamison – Land displacement during WWII
Julie Buckner Armstrong – Race, gender, and lynching in Savannah
Ann Bailey – Memory of slavery in coastal Georgia
Douglas Blackmon – Incarceration and the legacy of slavery
Mia Bay – Segregated Transportation
Tina McElroy Ansa – Georgia’s black freedom struggle in fiction & more