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Goodwood Museum And Gardens To Memorialize Those Who Were Enslaved There

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Tom FlanigAN
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The Main House at Goodwood

Tallahassee's Goodwood Museum and Gardens is moving to recognize a somber part of its long history. The museum's leadership is also seeking community help in creating that recognition. Shortly after Tallahassee was designated the Florida Territorial Capital in 1824, much of the land surrounding the settlement was parceled out in grants. In 1834, the Crooms family from North Carolina acquired the land tract that included what is today the Goodwood Museum and Gardens. Goodwood Marketing and Program Director Chelsie Lane said not all of those on the property came of their own free will.

"We have documents stating that there were actually people who worked for the owners in the Ante-Bellum Period that were considered slaves. Also the indentured servants, such as the butlers and the cooks who used to do the laundry and pick cotton here."

Goodwood's board of directors quickly got involved. Laura Lee Corbett was named to head up a special committee charged with determining how best to acknowledge the enslaved who labored on the property before the Civil War. She acknowledged it was a recognition that was long overdue.

"Obviously with all the events that have been happening around the nation and the world in the past year-and-a-half, two years, shone a light more on that part of our history that we haven't explored so well."

The next step, said Corbett, was to determine how best to proceed.

"As we assembled a committee of seasoned historians, artists, researchers, preservationists, and most importantly, people who've identified as being descendants of the formerly enslaved on the property, we've really worked through months and months of deep thought and study, looking at what other properties are doing and devised a plan to make this a design competition."

Chelsie Lane said the design phase of the project is open to the entire creative community.

"We're asking artists of all kinds, sculptors, painters, anybody with a big idea who can put it out on a piece of paper. It's not really competitive. It's more so for us to be able to look through different designs and see what the best fit is for Goodwood."

Adding there is so far no deadline on submissions.

"We want to give everyone an ample amount of time to bring something inspiring that's going to touch the hearts of everyone who gets to see it and really implements paying homage to those who worked so hard and tirelessly and never got any kind of 'thank you.'"

Goodwood Board Member Asaf Qasem said this "Memorial to the Enslaved" project has received total organizational buy-in.

"The Goodwood Board of Directors is committed to recognizing and honoring the history of the enslaved in both the future physical structures and programmatic efforts to make sure we tell the whole story of all the history at Goodwood."

Laura Lee Corbett believed that effort would make the museum and gardens relevant to a greatly expanded audience.

"Young people, people of different backgrounds and frankly young African-American students who never heard of Goodwood, never been to Goodwood and it's been an exciting opportunity to have people on the site and explain it with a 21st Century perspective."

And for Board Member Asaf Qasem, it's a new and welcome direction for Goodwood Museum and Gardens.

"That is the way it should be done, making sure we recognize and be as inclusive as we can in this process. And I believe all the Goodwood board members feel the same way and seeing this come into fruition is just so exciting."

Goodwood's web site features a "Memorial to the Enslaved" link that has more information about the community initiative.