Roswell Roots

01 roots logoLinda Burton posting from Atlanta, Georgia – February is Black History Month. A check of city calendars across the country reveals concerts, lectures, and special events scheduled from Annapolis, Maryland to Salem, Oregon, and all points between. I’m in Atlanta now, so I decided to head for Roswell, a community 20 miles to the north, to learn about Roswell Roots, the largest and most comprehensive celebration of African American history and culture in the state of Georgia. Roswell is known for its focus on history; it is an outstanding example of what a city can do for preservation, with the now-city-owned “Trilogy” of Barrington Hall, Bulloch Hall, and Smith Plantation open to the public year-round. Barrington Hall (1842) sits on 7 acres in downtown Historic Roswell; known as one of metro Atlanta’s “Most Beautiful Homes” it offers visitors a glimpse of the only antebellum garden in the area, and numerous original outbuildings. At Smith Plantation (1845) visitors can see the original 01 Bulloch Hall Cfarmhouse and ten original outbuildings, once part of a 300-acre cotton farm. Bulloch Hall (1839) has a unique claim to fame – it was the childhood home of Martha “Mittie” Bulloch, whose wedding to Theodore Roosevelt Sr took place in the front parlor in 1853; Mittie became mother to Teddy Roosevelt (26th President, 1901-1909) and grandmother to Eleanor Roosevelt (First Lady 1933-1945). This month, however, the emphasis at Bulloch (photo right), and elsewhere in Roswell, is Roswell Roots.

01 Slave Quarters InteriorSharing the Story of Slavery is a month-long exhibit at Bulloch Hall; each room in the house displays tasks and chores of the Bulloch slaves, with discussions of the important role these enslaved people played in the Bulloch household, and throughout the South. According to the 1840 US Census, Major Bulloch owned 43 slaves; field slaves lived near the cotton fields; house slaves lived in the two dogtrot cabins in the service yard. Archaeological findings show that the cabins measured 16 x 40 and had glass windows. A reconstructed dogtrot cabin is open to visitors; family letters and records tell of Daddy William, the butler; Maum Rose, the cook; 01 roosevelts visitMaum Grace, the children’s nursemaid; and Maum Charlotte, who ran the household. Daddy Luke was a literate slave, he often read to the children. He continued to be supported by Mittie and her sister until his death at 105 and is buried with the Bulloch family. Daddy William (right) and Maum Grace (left) are in the photo taken on the front steps of Bulloch Hall when President Roosevelt (2nd from left) visited in 1905. Bulloch Hall

Members of the Family…? is the month-long exhibit at Barrington Hall; it uses documents and photographs of the owners referring to the enslaved married couple Abram and Flora as “members of the family” and traces their lives over a period of twenty years. Slave Life on the Plantation at Smith Plantation focuses on work, food, and everyday tasks of a slave’s life; exhibits are in the barn and the slave cabin; most artifacts are from the original Smith family collection.

01 fashionSpecial One-day Events at the Three Historic Homes

  • Saturday February 2: Afrocentric Fashion and Design at Smith Plantation with a fashion show; fashion expert Vernell Washington discusses fashion as it has evolved from African roots.
  • Saturday, February 9: Tales Told in the Cabin at Bulloch where storyteller Josie Bailey shares Br’er Rabbit stories as they were once told by slaves to Bulloch children; and West African Rhythms and Flavors at Barrington, a day devoted to the food and music of West Africa; chef Sallie Ann Robinson prepares her famous coastal specialties; Guinean master drummer Mamady Keita teaches how to drum.

Other Month-long Exhibits in Roswell

  • Roswell City Hall Rotunda: Ebony Stitchers Quilt Guild Exhibit. The Ebony Stitchers are women of color who are fiber artists, quilters, doll makers, and fine artists. This is a special exhibit of quilts by members of the Guild. 01 quilt
  • Roswell Cultural Arts Center: An Exhibit of Works by Lionel Daniels, painter. Lionel Daniels is a graduate of Morehouse College and an up-and-coming African American artist; his traditional acrylic paintings present images on social issues.
  • Roswell Branch Library: Slave Cabins: The Architecture of Enslavement. Photographer Curtis Graves displays a selection of work examining plantation architecture, particularly the living quarters of enslaved Africans.

Other special Roswell Roots events in February, check the calendar for time and location: Roswell Roots

Week of February 9-15

  • Finding the Roots of Your Family Tree with renowned genealogist Melvin J Collier; two lectures cover pre and post Civil War methodologies for tracing African American roots.
  • 01 negro league baseballRise and Fall of Negro League Baseball with former Negro League players and historian Nasir Muhammad; impact of the League on contemporary sports.
  • Groveway Community Group – Comin’ Back Again, drama, dance, music and poetry coming back to remember our heritage; Chinnita Morris and Daisy Thames Production Company plus local talents.
  • Poetry & Performance Workshop with poet and performer Ayodele leading teens in a poetry workshop.
  • Freddy Cole in Concert in conjunction with Atlanta Jazz Preservation Society, Atlanta resident Freddy Cole (brother of Nat) leads a quartet with suave, elegant jazz tunes.

Week of February 16-22

  • 01 poetry slamFabric Postcards for Youth, ages 10 and up learn how to make postcards from fabric.
  • Quilt Stories in African American Quilts, lectures about special stories contained in quilts.
  • Learn to Make a Quilt Star Pattern Sewing Class, learn to make a “star” quilt.
  • Soldiers to Remember: United States Colored Troops Traveling Museum, artifacts and stories of true war-time experiences.
  • “Slamming in the Suburbs”: Roswell Poetry Slam; Roswell’s Annual Poetry Slam with $1,000 1st Place Cash Prize; led by poet Ayodele Heath.
  • And Still We Sing…The African American Spiritual Journey as Nurtured by Song, a review of the journey of African people, drawing a parallel between their lives and oppressed people of the Bible.

Weekend of February 23-24

  • 01 cornbread2nd Annual Cornbread Cook-Off, a prize for Best Cornbread, judged by Chef Sonya Jones, owner of Sweet Auburn Bread Company; also People’s Choice Awards.
  • The Strange Demise of Jim Crow, a screening of the documentary revealing how the city of Houston was peacefully desegrated; followed by discussion facilitated by Dr Curtis Graves, the first African American Texas State Representative.
  • KUUMBA Storytellers of Georgia Present Historic Portraits, costumed storytellers of Georgia tell about known and not so well known African Americans.