In September 2019, Telfair Museums announced the Legacy of Slavery in Savannah Initiative. This multifaceted project seeks to engage local Savannahians, artists, scholars, and activists to consider how the legacies of slavery still manifest in our city and what we can do to work toward justice.
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: Telfair Museums is partnering with organizations throughout the Savannah community who already work to end the legacies of slavery and seek justice. We’re working with our partners to highlight their missions and amplify their voices.
Sonya Clark: Finding Freedom (October 1, 2021-January 9, 2022) consists of a large-scale canopy quilted together from cyanotype reactive fabric squares and seeds that were made with the help of workshop participants during artist Sonya Clark’s (American, b. 1967) various residencies. Clark’s mixed media works use everyday objects to address tangled histories, cultural heritage, and identity. Recently, Clark has turned her attention to creating installations that coincide with national conversations about racism and violence and who “owns” history in the United States. Draped as if a night sky overhead, Finding Freedom will offer a celestial viewpoint that encourages visitors to consider those who sought freedom along the Underground Railroad–a network of people, safe houses, and clandestine routes used by enslaved people in the early to mid-19th century to escape from states that sanctioned slavery, such as Georgia, into free states and Canada–using the constellations to orient themselves. This consideration of history can be expanded to the present day as visitors are urged to question what finding freedom means to people in today’s world, which is still greatly affected by the legacies of the traumas of the past.
Noel W Anderson: Heavy is the Crown (October 1, 2021-January 9, 2022) considers black experience and its legacies between the temporal brackets of two “kings”–1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. presented his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech and 1992, the brutal beating of Rodney King and his subsequent plea “Can we all just get along…?” Heavy is the Crown expands upon artist Noel Anderson’s (American, B. 1981) ever-evolving questioning of black origin and sovereignty through inquiring about the historical relationship of the term “crown” to black masculine (mis)representation. Critical to this inquiry are ghosts as subtext; simultaneously the representation of death and traces of structural oppression. Heavy is the Crown seeks to realize the immaterial. The printed works, tapestries, and paperworks on view in the exhibition utilize found imagery from various media and archives that are reprocessed by Anderson through assorted means of distortion and manipulation to collectively expose the haunting relationship of black masculine (mis)representation to structures of power.
#art912 Re-Cor-Dare: Sauda Mitchell (April 16, 2021-February 27, 2022) is a solo #art912 exhibition of Savannah-based artist Sauda Mitchell (American, B. 1981). Mitchell’s prints, paintings, and artist books serve as compelling visual responses to her sustained engagement with archival collection materials. In researching personal papers, photographs, artifacts, and curated digital collections, her work explores themes related to the Black experience. Utilizing QR codes, selected works link to digitized collection materials. These resources recall narratives embedded within the African American collective memory. Through five distinct but interconnecting series, Mitchell traces the legacies of slavery in the United States from the Middle Passage to present-day social injustices faced by Black Americans. Ultimately, her work exists as a catalyst for discussion, reflection, and a celebration of the human spirit.
Scholars from around the country have been invited to explore the diverse legacies of slavery in our region. (Scholars listed below)
Oct 7–9, 2022
Free and open to the public
Publication: The findings of our scholars, along with images from the exhibition and oral histories, will be published by University of Georgia Press as The Legacy of Slavery in Savannah.
Investment is provided by the City of Savannah, the Georgia Council for the Arts, Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation.
Additional support provided by Georgia Southern University.
Melissa Cooper and Talitha LeFlouria are working with Savannah residents to collect oral histories focused on the African American experience.
As a component of this project, Drs. Melissa Cooper and Talitha LeFlouria would like to interview Savannah residents to learn about the Black experience in Savannah and about how African-Americans in Savannah understand the legacies of slavery in the city and region.
Know someone who should be interviewed? Reach out to Ahmauri Williams-Alford, Assistant Curator of Historical Interpretation and Programs at WilliamsAlfordA@telfair.org.
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
Patricia Sullivan – WW Law and the Black freedom struggle in Savannah
Michele Johnson – Ahmaud Arbery’s murder and the local grassroots response
Nikole Hannah Jones – 1619 Project
Legacy of Slavery in Savannah Book Club
October 8, 2020 – Julie Armstrong – Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.
November 12, 2020 – Mia Bay – To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
December 10, 2020 – Hilary Green – Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890, Fordham University Press, April 2016.
January 14, 2021 – Talitha LeFlouria – Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
February 11, 2021 – Andrew Kahrl – The Land Was Ours: How Black Beaches Became White Wealth in the Coastal South, University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
Join us on February 11 at 6PM to discuss The Land Was Ours: How Black Beaches Became White Wealth in the Coastal South with Andrew Kahrl, professor of history and African American studies at the University of Virginia. Kahrl’s book examines the history of African American-owned beaches along the southern seaboard in the 20th century and the practice of predatory land speculation that led to black landowners’ dispossession of their properties and beaches. This virtual book club is free and open to the public. A live Q&A will follow a brief presentation.
March 11, 2021 – Douglas Blackmon – Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2009. ©2008.
Join us on March 11 at 6PM to discuss Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II with author Douglas Blackmon, Professor of Practice in Georgia State University’s Creative Media Industries Institute. Blackmon will present his Pulitzer Prize winning book on the re-enslavement of African Americans in the 20th century through practices like convict leasing of black prisoners by the states, local governments, white farmers, and corporations. This virtual book club is free and open to the public. A live Q&A will follow a brief presentation.
April 8, 2021 – Patricia Sullivan – Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement, The New Press, 2009.
Join us on April 8 at 6PM to discuss Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement with author Patricia Sullivan, professor of history at the University of South Carolina. Sullivan’s book examines the early decades of the NAACP and highlights the extraordinary stories of individuals such as W.E.B Du Bois, Walter White, Ella Baker, Thurgood Marshall, and Mary White Ovington. This virtual book club is free and open to the public. A live Q&A will follow a brief presentation.
May 13, 2021 – Melissa Cooper – Making Gullah: A History of Sapelo Islanders, Race, and the American Imagination, University of North Carolina Press, 2017.
Join us on May 13 at 6PM for a discussion of Making Gullah: A History of Sapelo Islanders, Race, and the American Imagination with author Melissa Cooper, associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Newark. Cooper will present her book on the construction of Gullah identity and how it has been reimagined and transformed throughout history. This virtual book club is free and open to the public. A live Q&A will follow a brief presentation.
June 10, 2021 – Jelani Favors – Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism, University of North Carolina Press, 2019.
Join us on June 10 at 6PM for a discussion of Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism with author Jelani M. Favors. Favors, who is an assistant professor of history at Clayton University will present his book on the development and significance of historically Black colleges and universities, highlighting the ways in which they played pivotal roles during the Jim Crow era and the civil rights and Black Power movements. This virtual book club is free and open to the public. A live Q&A will follow a brief presentation.
July 8, 2021 – Maurice Hobson – The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta. University of North Carolina Press, 2019.
Join us on July 8 at 6PM to discuss The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta with author Maurice J. Hobson, associate professor of African American studies at Georgia State University. In his book, Hobson explores the history of black Southerners living in Atlanta in the post-World War II era, effectively interrogating the city’s long held-title of “black Mecca.” This virtual book club is free and open to the public. A live Q&A will follow a brief presentation.
August 12, 2021 – Tina McElroy Ansa – Baby of the Family. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989.
Join us on August 12 at 6PM to discuss Tina McElroy Ansa’s first novel, Baby of the Family. Ansa, who is a novelist, filmmaker, teacher, and journalist, will present her book—a coming-of-age novel set in 1949 in rural Georgia. It chronicles the life of Lena McPherson, a black girl who is able to see and talk to ghosts. This virtual book club is free and open to the public. A live Q&A will follow a brief presentation.
Featured books will be conveniently available at the following libraries and The Book Lady Book Store.
Beaufort County Library
Library phone: 843-255-6456
Visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beaufortcountylibrary/
Current library hours: Citizens are encouraged to call or e-mail before driving to a Beaufort County Office. Visit us online at www.beaufortcountysc.gov. Effective July 17, all Beaufort County buildings are closed to the public until further notice to minimize opportunities to spread COVID-19 in our community.
Live Oak Public Libraries
Library phone: 912-652-3600
Visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liveoakpl/
Current Library hours: Live Oak Public Libraries are open with limited services and safety practices. Visit https://liveoakpl.org/services/ for services, protocols, and safety precautions.
Monday, 10 AM – 7 PM
Tuesday through Friday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Saturday, 10 AM – 2 PM
The Book Lady
Store phone: 912-233-3628
Message on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheBookLadyBookstore/
Current In-Store hours: Monday-Saturday 11-5, COVID-19 safe procedures include a limit of 4 people inside the shop, mandatory masks, hand sanitizer provided, gloves provided, frequent sanitizing of the shop, check-out station behind plexiglass