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Eatheopean art exhibit at Meek Eaton Black Archivesused as title of Tallahassee's Spirit of Smokey Hollow

Smokey Hollow

Founded in the 1890s close to downtown, Smokey Hollow  was home to many of Tallahassee's working class African Americans. It was a safe comfortable place where neighbors were like family until the 1960s.Then, as Tallahassee entered the period of the Civil Right movement. sweeping its reforms across American, everything changed.

The powers that reigned, decided that Smokey Hollow needed to be destroyed as it stood in the way of "urban renewal." The land was taken through eminent domain and the families were displaced and scattered.

The wave of equality was sweeping through Tallahassee during this time. Change had begun in May of 1956 when Carrie Patterson, a 21-year-old FAMU junior, and Wilhemina Jakes, a 26-year-old FAMU senior copied Rosa Parks bold movement and dared to sit in the white seats of a Tallahassee bus.  The students were arrested sparking a boycott of the Tallahassee bus system similar to Montgomery's.  
Picture at Meek Eaton Black Archives of students protesting
FAMU students protesting their college being merged with FSU

This led to sit-ins at the local Woolworth's and McCrory's lunch counters beginning in February 1960. Protesters were arrested and charged with "disturbing the peace."  Might doesn't always triumph over right and the protests continued.  Ten Interfaith Freedom Riders challenged segregated interstate buses in June 1961 by traveling via Greyhound from Washington D.C. to Tallahassee. In Tallahassee they decided to test the airport restaurant and were arrested there. Their original 60 day sentence was commuted to four days. They became known as the Tallahassee Ten.

Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk

The bravery of these activists was later honored with the Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk located on East Jefferson Street. It's a grouping of 16 panels that tell the story and list many of the names of the protesters. Well worth a quick pass to view.
Portion of Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk
Portion of Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk honoring the Civil Rights activists

Meek Eaton Black Archives

Justice finally prevailed and in 1971, the Florida Legislature ordered the creation of a repository to "serve the state by collecting and preserving source material on and about African Americans from ancient to present times." From this Meek Eaton Black Archives was born. This is a research center as well as a museum. It opened in 1976 in historic Carnegie Library on FAMU's campus. Here you can find a Civil Rights and Black History exhibits from Tallahassee as well as across the nation. Serious scholars can take advantage of their archives and research materials.
Carnegie Library at FANU now Meek Eaton Black Archives
Carnegie Library now home of Meek Eaton Black Archives

Ironically when Carnegie donated the library, the city of Tallahassee refused it as Carnegie required that Black patrons be allowed to use the facility. It was then built on what is now the FAMU campus. Exhibits at the Meek Eaton Black Archives range from ancient Ethiopian art through slavery days up to the present. One interesting exhibit shows FAMU students marching in protest against the possibility of being merged with FSU and thus losing their identity.
Guide at Meek Eaton Black Archives describing exhibits
Our guide at Meek Eaton Black Archives tells of struggle to gain civil rights

Another exhibit which emphasizes the role Black churches played in the civil rights movement is the recreation of a typical Black Church at the archives. The artifacts have come for many different churches. The beautiful stained glass windows come from Bethel Missionary Church. Rev. C. K. Steele, the pastor, was one of Tallahassee's most active civil rights workers during the bus boycotts. Bethel Missionary Baptist Church was a major target of Ku Klux Klan activity.
Recreatiosn of Black church at Meek Eaton Black Archives
Black church at Meek Eaton Black Archives

It was against this background that Sleepy Hollow was leveled. At time marched on, city officials realized that these protesters were not criminals but just citizens demanding their fair rights. So when Tallahassee opened its newest park, Cascades Park in 2014 on the footprint of the former Smokey Hollow, it raised a monument to the people who had lived in this once vibrant community.

Today when you visit the park, you will find three brick and steel framed outlines symbolic of the small shotgun houses most common in the original Smokey Hollow. Inside are photos, and marking designating how it would have been furnished.
Spirit House at Smokey Hollow
Community Spirit House at Smokey Hollow

The neighborhood's community spirit is represented by the open vegetable and flower gardens and fruit trees which will be shared with the public. There is a picnic area and pool. Several hopscotch games and a playground show how neighborhood children spent theit free time. Each of the houses are named for a community value, "Community Spirit," "Family Spirit" and "Enduring Spirit." A walkway leads to the John G. Riley House and Museum that was on the outskirts of Smokey Hollow. The home was built by John G. Riley and has been restored as a museum honoring Mr. Riley and other African American who contributed to Tallassee's present greatness. 
vegatable garden at Smokey Hollow
Garden at Smokey Hollow

Perhaps the enduring spirit that had revived the spirit of Smokey Hollow can be summed up by a statement from one of its former residents. "We didn't really have much, we just had each other."

And that is what really counts in the long haul.

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