On the 150th anniversary of Emancipation, the African American Heritage Alliance of East Tennessee (AAHA!) presents Echoes of Emancipation: One Region, Many Voices, a conference and recognition focusing on the 50 years of history, art, music and culture in post-slavery East Tennessee.
In partnership with Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, the George Clem Multicultural Alliance, and Tusculum College, AAHA!'s 2013 conference builds on the successful 2011 Conference “An Untold Story” in Knoxville, Tennessee by expanding the visual and performing arts components while continuing to provide historically significant presentations, workshops and panels AAHA! is known for such as:
Freedom Journeys: US Colored Troops Soldiers and African American Identity,Harry Bradshaw Matthews, Founder, US Colored Troops Institute, Hartwick College
Praying with Our Feet: Emancipation Celebrations, Crossing Boundaries, and the Ongoing March to Freedom. Dr George White, York College, SUNY
From the Ground Up: Building Communities of Faith and Education in the Black Community after Emancipation, C.C. Mills, Assistant Attorney General and Stella Gudger, Swift College Museum.
Recovering the Black Historical Subject through Contemporary Poetry, Dr. Bethany White, Carson Newman University.
An Evening with Paul Robeson, A One Man Show presented by Horace Smith, III.
The conference offers opportunities to learn how to do oral history interviews, how to care for family archives, and how to preserve Black cemeteries through creative educational programs and partnerships. Tusculum Museum Studies staff will be digitizing documents and artifacts and students from area colleges will help attendees “tell their community story” with the “Mapping African American History in East Tennessee” project.
About the African American Heritage Alliance (AAHA!) of East Tennessee:
AAHA! represents eight counties in Eastern Tennessee and twelve local African American organizations working to preserve Black history in East Tennessee. AAHA! believes that preserving, restoring, and celebrating knowledge of the history of the African American community in East Tennessee and the cultural and economic contributions its members have made will “change the narrative” and thereby help foster more positive, just and equitable interactions between the diverse groups of people for whom East Tennessee is home.
AAHA! is a task force of the Community Economic Development Network of East Tennessee. Funding for this conference comes from East Tennessee Foundation and Humanities Tennessee. Find us online at: www.aahaonline.net
(AAHA!) African American Heritage Alliance of East Tennessee's
1) Black Cemeteries: Saving Cemeteries, Preserving Stories, Building Community,
Ethiel Garlington, Convener, Knox County Heritage. This panel explores the stories of successful preservations through creative educational programs and community partnerships; panel includes Shirley Carr Clowney, Dr. K Abroziak, Alix Dempster, Stephen Scruggs, Randi Nott.
2) Telling Tales: What's Your Family's Story?
Asking Good Questions: An Oral History Workshop, Lizzie Watts, National Park Service
Praying with Our Feet: August 8th, Crossing Boundaries, and the Ongoing March to Freedom
Dr. George White, York College, CUNY
Throughout the 2013 AAHA! Conference, there are several themes that dictate how these events are scheduled, planned and recognized. Below are the guiding themes for “Echoes of Emancipation: One Region, Many Voices”
Freedom Journeys: United States Colored Troops and African American Identity in the Post-Civil War Era
Many Black families are exploring their genealogies and discovering that they had an ancestor who served in the United States Colored Troops. Our featured scholar and keynote speaker Dean Harry Bradshaw Matthews, Fonder of the United States Colored Troops Institute at Hartwick College in New York will speak on how serving in the USCT changed the lives and outlooks of African American men and how USCT veterans helped shape discussions of African American identity in the crucial decade of the 1890’s when the debate between Washington and Dubois was heating up. Dean Matthews has written extensively on the history and significance of US Colored Troops from both Massachusetts and southern states.
Building Communities of Faith and Education: Founding Black Churches and Schools, 1866-1900
Two of the cornerstones of post-Emancipation communities in East Tennessee were churches and schools. The importance of black schools and churches is the Civil Rights era is generally known but the early history of many black churches and schools is not well known or is poorly documented. Assistant District Attorney Cecil Mills will speak on how the establishment of independent black churches created the foundation for strong black communities in the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction eras. These organizations became the sites of resistance and community strength in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Ms. Stella Gudger of the Swift College Museum in Rogersville will discuss the history of Swift Memorial College and her effort to create a Museum and community center honoring this legacy. Robin Fife of Tusculum College will relate the struggle to preserve the rich history of the George Clem School in Greeneville. Dr. Beth Vanlandingham of Carson Newman University will address the ways in which oral histories and digital archives can preserve the stories of Black schools in East Tennessee.
August 8th: Emancipation Celebrations and African American Resilience Previous AAHA! conferences have explored the origins of the August 8th celebrations in Greeneville; this year we hope to examine more closely how these celebrations anchored communities in the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction years when segregation became entrenched all across the South. How did these celebrations keep communities on that “freedom journey”? Dr. George White of York University, CUNY, one of our featured scholars, will present a keynote address on “Praying with Our Feet: August 8th, Crossing Boundaries, and the Ongoing March to Freedom. He will explore the ways in which ideas about African American identity and citizenship were debated during this time period and how Emancipation celebrations functioned as important markers of resistance and resilience.
Local community historians Bill Murrah, Gene Maddox, and Kendra Hinckle will discuss the meaning of August 8th celebrations across East Tennessee and the significant role that the formers slaves of Andrew Johnson played in East Tennessee in the years after Emancipation. They will be joined by Ned Arter, one of the descendents of the Johnson freedmen families, who now owns a cane presented by FDR to Sam Johnson.
Saving Cemeteries, Preserving Stories, Building Community
All across East Tennessee, historic Black cemeteries that were established in the post-Civil War era are being reclaimed and rediscovered. Many communities and individuals struggle to find the right people and resources to maintain neglected cemeteries. The Cemetery Preservation Panel will showcase case studies and best practices for establishing cemetery groups, working with volunteers to cleanup cemeteries, creating events to promote awareness about the cemeteries, and getting young people involved with historic cemeteries. The panel is being organized by Ethiel Garlington of the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance. He will be joined by Shirley Carr Clowney who has done extensive work in Blount County to preserve and reclaim African American cemeteries across the county. Alix Dempster will speak about Old Gray Cemetery that became a successful heritage tourism destination. Stephen Scruggs and Dr. Katherine Ambroziak will speak about their grass-root efforts to involve the community and university in rehabilitating Odd Fellows Cemetery and Potters Field, two African American cemeteries in East Knoxville. Randi Nott will discuss the rehabilitation of New Hope Cemetery in Greeneville through partnerships with Tusculum College, the City of Greeneville, local businesses and community members and the Big Spring Master Gardeners Association.
Telling Tales: Asking Good Questions and Preserving Great Stories through Oral History Interviews Superintendent Lizzie Watts (Andrew Johnson National Historic Site) will conduct a how-to workshop on family/community oral history interviews with an eye towards asking the kinds of questions that will help historians write the deep history of African American communities in this era. Participants will learn how asking good questions can lead to historically rich and relevant content that moves beyond the basics of family genealogy. Kathy Cuff of Tusculum Museum Studies will also offer a session on how to properly preserve family documents and artifacts for posterity.
The NellyVan Vactor Story Dr. Bethany White, Associate Professor of English at Carson Newman University, will present a poetry reading of her own original poems and she will also speak on the ways in which contemporary poetry is being used to recover the voices of African Americans across our history. She is a scholar, a poet, and a playwright who writes and speaks on African American women authors and their contributions to American culture. In 2009 she wrote and presented a one-woman play on the life of Jarenna Lee, a 19th century African American woman evangelist. She will join local Greeneville genealogist Stevie Hughes in a panel discussion of the life of Nelly VanVactor, a free woman of color and one of the first black women to own property in Tennessee prior to the Civil War.
Friday Night: Friendship Baptist Church Gospel Concert followed by An Evening with Paul Robeson.
Saturday Night: Gallery Opening and Reception for Sammie Nicely, Artspace 4 Gallery/General Morgan Inn
Tusculum College Museum staff will be digitizing documents and artifacts with historical significance for people who want to bring items to the conference.
Students from Tusculum College and Carson Newman College will be helping community members document the history of local schools, churches, businesses at the “Mapping African American History in East Tennessee Project.”
For Additional information on the African American Heritage Alliance of East Tennessee and the 2013 Conference, Contact:
Dr. Beth Vanlandingham, Conference Program Organizer