Riley House Receives Collection of Abolitionist Papers
The John G. Riley Center/ Museum of African American History and Culture formally received a nationally significant collection of Black abolitionist papers last month at Tallahassee Community College Library.
The collection, which will be housed at Tallahassee Community College (TCC), contains documents including editorials, sermons, speeches, letters and essays written by African Americans involved in the movement to end slavery in the United States.
“The role of Black Americans in the anti-slavery crusade has been a neglected area in American history, largely because of the unavailability of research materials,” said Riley House director Althemese Barnes. “That is what makes this collection so valuable.”
Receiving the over 14,000-piece collection was TCC President Bill Law, TCC history and social science dean Dr. Monte Finkelstein, TCC director of library services Cherry Alexander, Anthony Dixon, a Riley Archive intern, and Barnes.
“Having the Black Abolitionist Papers on campus will provide students the opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of the anti-slavery movement,” said Finkelstein. “It is important in the context of ante bellum American culture and society and the role that Black Americans, some of whom are well known and others who are more obscure, played in bringing an end to slavery in the United States.”
The partnership between the John Gilmore Riley African American Museum and Archives and Tallahassee Community College was established in August 2003.
Noted Florida State University history professors and authors Drs. Joe Richardson and Maxine Jones; Dr. David Jackson, FAMU history professor and author of Booker T. Washington’s Travels Through Florida; Rep. Curtis Richardson, Anthony Dixon, Dr. Geraldine Seay and Shirley Gooding-Butler, chairs, Riley board of directors, also attended the announcement.
The donation was made possible by Jones, Richardson and C. Peter Ripley, director of the Black Abolitionist Papers Research Project. Upon examining the vision and mission of the TCC/Riley partnership, Jones and Richardson decided the collection would serve the greater good at TCC as a resource to help prepare the next generation of historians, researchers, writers and museum and archival professionals.
John Riley, for whom the Riley Center/Museum is named and whose family home at 419 East Jefferson Street in Tallahassee, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, exposed three principles during his lifetime: maintaining high educational standards, attention to investing and giving compassionately to those less fortunate. Riley, born into slavery in 1857, went on to become a distinguished educator, astute businessman, and outstanding community activist and servant. His home, The Riley House, is the only known home of a freed slave that is still standing. It has been restored and is open to the public.
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