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Blended Lives

May 1, 2015

Blended Lives is an African American education project of Goodwood Museum, Leon County Schools, and the Tallahassee Urban League.

 

Blended Lives 2015

150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in Historic Frenchtown

 

 

Emancipation Celebration in Historic Frenchtown

 

The Emancipation Proclamation was an order given on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln to free captive slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order. It was not fully law per the United States Constitution. However, it did pave the way for the Thirteenth Amendment. The advantage of the Proclamation was that it could happen quickly. The Thirteenth Amendment took a few more years to get passed by congress and implemented, but on December 6, 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted and became part of the U.S. Constitution.  The Emancipation Proclamation was read on the steps of the Knott House in downtown Tallahassee on May 20, 1965 which freed the slaves from plantations in Eastern Leon County. The plantations in Leon County at that time were Gamble, Waverly, Bradford, Fleishman, Southwood, and Goodwood. Upon being freed, many slaves settled in the Northwest Addition of Leon County, a section known today as Frenchtown.  Former slaves celebrated their freedom for two weeks before establishing permanent residency and building new lives.

 

Historic Frenchtown

 

Historic Frenchtown originated in 1824 long before the ending of the Civil War. After the Emancipation, freed slaves moved to the Frenchtown section of Leon County and began to restructure their lives and built a community that would become self-supporting with all the amenities of a small town. The church was the center of freed slaves and provided more than religious instruction; attending church services was also the way that former slaves learned about national events as well as a public forum where people could talk about their concerns and fears.  Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Saint Mary Primitive Baptist Church on Call Street were the newly established institutions that were used to educate Blacks. From the early 20th century Frenchtown became a hub of activity with growing businesses, and a vibrant community of astute African Americans. The community was also the energizing location of the Tallahassee Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and the 1960’s.

 

The Taylor House Museum

 

The Taylor House was home of a notable African American family from 1894 to 1978. Lewis Washington Taylor and his wife Lucretia McPherson Taylor built the home in 1894. Lewis was born in December, 1865, and Lucretia was born a slave on May 19, 1865, one day before the “Emancipation Proclamation” was read on the steps of the Knott House. Mr. Taylor was a well-known self-taught educator who taught at the Old Lincoln High School located in Frenchtown, Centerville School and Bel Air: a one-room rural school in southern Tallahassee located on the grounds which had once been an ante-bellum plantation. During his off-time, Mr. Taylor tutored the White children from well-to-do families for $.10. He was the first Black person allowed to teach white students in Tallahassee. Mr. Taylor died on September 24, 1931. Lewis and Lucretia were married on December 17, 1887. Lucretia was a master cook and seamstress. She cooked for the family of Lewis M. Lively, who was the founder of the Lively Vocational School and Technical Center. Mrs. Taylor passed away on December 14, 1935. A granddaughter, Aquilina Casañas Howell was born and raised in the Taylor House, becoming the first Black woman Assistant Superintendent of Leon County Schools. She helped to desegregate the school district in the 1960s and early 1970s. The school board’s Aquilina C. Howell Instructional Services Center is named in her honor.