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The River Road African American Museum exhibits include Free People of Color; African Influences on Louisiana Cuisine; Rural Roots of Jazz; Black Doctors of the River Road; Louisiana Black Inventors; Folk Artists; Louisiana Underground Railroad; Reconstruction Period; History of Education in Plantation Country and Slave Inventories
Visit the River Road African American Museum and learn about the past in order to understand the future.
Learn about the story of the River Road African American Museum from its beginning to our future plans. Here also you find is our vision/mission statements and a letter from the founder/director of the museum, Kathe Hambrick.
 
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Little is known about the Rosenwald Schools. but they are responsible for educating thousands of African American children throughout the South including Louisiana. The schools were the result of an amazing relationship between noted African American author and educator Booker T. Washington and the CEO of Sears and Roebuck, Julius Rosenwald. More than 5000 schools were built - but where are they? Shauna Sanford discovers how one curious museum curator stumbled upon an old wooden school house that opened the door to an historic treasure.

Link to flash video: The African American Heritage Trail
 

The African American Heritage Trail
Producer: Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Length: 7 minutes
File Type / Size: Flash Video / 50mb

 
 

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Journal documents work of midwives

DONALDSONVILLE — Darryl Gissel spent most of Saturday morning atop a ladder applying caulk to windows at the River Road African American Museum.

As Gissel, president of the museum's board, hopped from window to window, a crew of volunteers with ExxonMobil and its Black Employees Success Team washed, painted and spruced up the old building that houses the museum.




Isaiah Koshko & Julien Jarvis(click photo to enlarge)

Gissel, a Baton Rouge Realtor who works to preserve old houses, said the museum is "at a blossoming point" and the cleaning prepares the building for visitors that traditionally stop by in the summer. Read More



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Journal documents work of midwives

GEISMAR — Shirley Lewis carefully thumbed the pages of a faded journal documenting the babies delivered by her great-grandmother who served as a midwife in the early 1900s.

As she turned the pages, she called out names of families still living in the Dutchtown and Geismar area. The journals included information about births in the Kling, Palmer, Marcell, Robinson, Babin, Stephens, Watson, Landry, Johnson and Couple families.




Odessa Johnson & Shirley Lewis (click photo to enlarge)

The small, tattered journals of Peggy Johnson were donated to the River Road African American Museum during a Saturday program held in honor of Women's History Month.Read More



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Treasures in Trouble
2011-2012 Endangered Property List Released

In a continuing effort to fulfill its mission of cultural and architectural preservation, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana (FHL) has named endangered historic properties and entities, calling them “treasures in trouble,” to draw attention to their potential loss. FHL is designating five properties in the Greater Baton Rouge region, as well one grouping of New Orleans Lower Mid-City Historic District homes moved from the swath of construction for the new medical center, as endangered treasures and in need of advocacy efforts to preserve.




True Friends Hall (click photo to enlarge)

Named are the Livingston Parish Courthouse, circa 1940; First Guarantee Bank of Ponchatoula, a mid- 20th century modern building designed by renowned Louisiana architect John Desmond; True Friends Hall in Donaldsonville, circa 1886; The Royal Hotel in Amite, circa 1900; the Laurel Street Firehouse, circa 1940; and dozens of moved homes originally located in the National Register Lower Mid-City Historic District of New Orleans and intended for recycling.Read More



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Extras in 1964 movie honored
By Darlene Denstorff
Reprinted from The Advocate

DONALDSONVILLE — Larry Graves was 13 when he spent the summer on a movie set at Houmas House Plantation with Bette Davis, Joseph Cotton, Joan Crawford and Olivia de Havilland.

He relived that summer at Saturday’s outdoor screening of that movie, “Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” during the annual Avenue Evening Stroll.

While hundreds of visitors strolled up and down Railroad Avenue shopping, taking horse-drawn carriage rides and listening to music, the corner of Charles Street and Railroad Avenue looked like the setting for a film premiereRead More

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River Road African American Museum's New History
By Dale Irvin
Reprinted from Country Roads Magazine

Tucked under the trees in a corner of Donaldsonville’s pretty Louisiana Square, in the shadow of its historic courthouse, this little shotgun house is an important part of that community’s African American history.

It was once the medical office for Dr. John H. Lowery, a prominent black doctor who practiced medicine until 1941. Born in 1860, he was the son of a bricklayer and midwife and one of nineteen children. He studied medicine at Flint-Goodridge Hospital and received his medical degree from New Orleans University on February 21, 1894.

In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Lowery owned a mercantile store and a pharmacy on Railroad Avenue, and became one of Ascension Parish’s wealthiest citizens, owning over fifty pieces of property in what is today Donaldsonville’s downtown historic district.

Now the little shotgun house has a new role to serve in helping to tell the community’s story. Thanks to a Federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the River Road African American Museum has hired a full time curator and educator, for whom the newly renovated historic structure will serve as office space.

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National African American History Month, 2009
By The President of The United States of America A Proclamation
The White House

The history of African Americans is unique and rich, and one that has helped to define what it means to be an American. Arriving on ships on the shores of North America more than 300 years ago, recognized more as possessions than people, African Americans have come to know the freedoms fought for in establishing the United States and gained through the use of our founding principles of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assembly, and due process of law. The ideals of the Founders became more real and more true for every citizen as African Americans pressed us to realize our full potential as a Nation and to uphold those ideals for all who enter into our borders and embrace the notion that we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights.

Since Carter G. Woodson first sought to illuminate the African American experience, each February we pause to reflect on the contributions of this community to our national identity. The history is one of struggle for the recognition of each person's humanity as well as an influence on the broader American culture. African Americans designed our beautiful Capital City, gave us the melodic rhythms of New Orleans Jazz, issued new discoveries in science and medicine, and forced us to examine ourselves in the pages of classic literature. This legacy has only added luster to the brand of the United States, which has drawn immigrants to our shores for centuries.

This year's theme, "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas," is a chance to examine the evolution of our country and how African Americans helped draw us ever closer to becoming a more perfect union.

The narrative of the African American pursuit of full citizenship with all of the rights and privileges afforded others in this country is also the story of a maturing young Nation. The voices and examples of the African American people worked collectively to remove the boulders of systemic racism and discrimination that pervaded our laws and our public consciousness for decades. Through the work of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall, the African American community has steadily made progress toward the dreams within its grasp and the promise of our Nation. Meanwhile, the belief that those dreams might one day be realized by all of our citizens gave African American men and women the same sense of duty and love of country that led them to shed blood in every war we have ever fought, to invest hard-earned resources in their communities with the hope of self empowerment, and to pass the ideals of this great land down to their children and grandchildren.

As we mark National African American History Month, we should take note of this special moment in our Nation's history and the actors who worked so diligently to deliver us to this place. One such organization is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- the NAACP -- which this year will witness 100 years of service to the Nation on February 12. Because of their work, including the contributions of those luminaries on the front lines and great advocates behind the scenes, we as a Nation were able to take the dramatic steps we have in recent history.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2009 as National African American History Month. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs that raise awareness and appreciation of African American history.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

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River Road African American Museum Receives National Grant

Donaldsonville, La. ---- The River Road African American Museum is one of eight institutions selected for the 2008 Museum Grants for African American History and Culture (AAHC) program. The Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) awards these grants to organizations that focus on African American life, art, history or culture. The funds are used for programs to recruit, train, and retain skilled and new museum professionals in African American Museums. The Donaldsonville museum is the first Louisiana museum to receive the award.

“Museums dedicated to the African American experience offer people of all backgrounds a unique opportunity to study and appreciate underrepresented aspects of our shared American history, “ said Anne-Imelda Radice, Director of IMLS. “Through the Museum Grants for African American History and Culture, the Institute supports professional training, technical assistance, internship opportunities, and other important staff development programming for these museums.”

Thanks to this grant the River Road African American Museum is expanding its staff to meet the growing needs of the organization. The museum is seeking two enthusiastic well qualified museum professionals to serve as a full-time Museum Educator and a full-time Museum Curator. The deadline to apply is December 5, 2008. No phone calls please. For consideration, send a cover letter and resume to Kathe Hambrick Jackson, at kathe@aamuseum.org. Let us know where you heard about this job announcement. For job descriptions, please go to: .

The River Road African American Museum provides a rare glimpse into the Louisiana’s past history. The exhibits and tours highlight the struggles and achievements of the enslaved and free people who became the craftsmen, physicians, artists, musicians, healers, inventors, politicians and educators of the area know as “plantation country”. This one-of-a-kind museum is dedicated to colleting, preserving, educating and interpreting art, artifacts, documents and buildings that relate to the history of African Americans in the rural communities along the Mississippi River. The fifteen year old non-profit museum moved from its original location at the Tezcuco Plantation to the downtown historic district of Donaldsonville, Louisiana in 2001.

 

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Walkers remember Buffalo Soldiers
By Darlene Denstorff

Reprinted from The Advocate
www.2theadvocate.com


DONALDSONVILLE — Like the soldier to whom he pays tribute, Lawrence Keller walked the mile-long route from a ceremony honoring black soldiers and cowboys to the Juneteenth Freedom Festival grounds Saturday.

Keller, of New Orleans, and Varnel Jackson of Donaldsonville are part of a re-enactment group spreading the word about the valiant efforts of an all-black Army unit formed in 1866 called the Buffalo Soldiers.

For Juneteenth Freedom Festival organizer Kathe Hambrick Jackson, the annual event is the perfect setting for the re-enactors to teach children and adults about the history of the Buffalo Soldiers.

“It’s about bringing an educational experience to adults and children,” Kathe Jackson said.
Varnel Jackson said he recently joined the group, which pays tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers 25th Infantry Unit of the U.S. Army, to teach children about the work of the soldiers “taming the Wild West.”

During the ceremony, Varnel Jackson explained that the Buffalo Soldiers were part of an U.S. Army units of black soldiers created by Congress in July 1866.

 The legislation authorized the formation of the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry Regiments. Later the four infantry regiments were merged into the 24th and 25th Infantries, Varnel Jackson added.

While the units comprised only black soldiers, the congressional act called for all officers in the units to be white men, Varnel Jackson said.

The soldiers were called “Walk a Heap” by the American Indians because “they walked everywhere they went,” Varnel Jackson said.

“People know the name and they know the uniform, but that’s all they know,” he said.
“These black soldiers walked farther, mapped more land and discovered more undiscovered land from California to Arkansas and from Montana to Old Mexico than any other group,” he said.

The Buffalo Soldiers were former slaves, freemen of color and black Civil War soldiers who came together as the first black soldiers to serve during peacetime.

According to the Web site on the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, the black soldiers in these units were responsible for escorting settlers, cattle herds and railroad crews traveling west. 
The 9th and 10th cavalry units of the Buffalo Soldiers also conducted campaigns against American Indian tribes on a western frontier that extended from Montana to Texas and from New Mexico to Arizona.

“The combat prowess, bravery, tenaciousness, and looks on the battlefield, inspired the Indians to call them Buffalo Soldiers,” according to the Web site. 

Throughout the years the Buffalo Soldiers participated in many other military campaigns including the Spanish American War, the Philippine Insurrection, The Mexican Expedition, World War I, World War II and the Korean War, the Web site continued.

“We need to keep this history alive for our children so they know that their great-great-great grandmothers and great-great-great grandfathers made a tremendous sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today,” Kathe Jackson said.

The men, dressed in uniforms resembling those worn by the Buffalo Soldiers, laid a wreath at a Fort Butler monument dedicated in 2000.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States, Jackson said. 

She said slaves in Galveston, Texas, did not find out slavery had been abolished until June 19, 1865.

“Freedom came at different times for African Americans depending on where they lived,” Jackson said.

The three-day festival, one of the largest in the state and now in its 15th year, featured artists, a black inventors exhibition, Gospel choir competition, food and a visit by more than 80 black cowboys.

The black cowboys have returned each year to the event since being honored at the 2000 festival, Jackson said.

The riders were on hand for Saturday’s ceremony at a monument erected in honor of black cowboys and soldiers. 

The festival, sponsored by the River Road African American Museum, also featured a essay contest.

Students in Brian Richard-son’s Donaldsonville High School Black History class were asked to write an essay on “The impact of freedom sum-mer of 1964 on African Ameri-can voters in the South,” Kathe Jackson said.

Aleshia Green won first place with Chelsea Davis receiving second pace honors and Shantell Landry, third place.


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The River Road African-American Museum
Reprinted from The New York Times

www.nytimes.com

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A stop on Louisiana's African-American Heritage Trail, Kathe Hambrick, seen in this photo, has assembled a collection of historical photographs, emancipation records, slave deeds and other artifacts to display at her museum in Donaldsonville.







View a virtual tour of the museum here:
www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/05/25/travel/20080524_MUSEUM.html#


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Driving Back Into Louisiana’s History
By Ron Stodghill
Reprinted from The New York Times

www.nytimes.com

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STRIDING across the rain-soaked field of an abandoned Louisiana plantation, Mitch Landrieu, the state’s lieutenant governor, waved his hands impatiently. “C’mon, you’ve got to see this,” he called out, sounding more P. T. Barnum than politician. Marching beside him was the Whitney Plantation’s owner, John Cummings, a wealthy Louisiana lawyer turned preservationist who, with Mr. Landrieu’s help, hopes to prove that the old Southern plantation, or at least this one, is still very much in business.

Centuries past its prime, the Whitney Plantation sits grandly beneath a canopy of oak trees along a dusty road in St. John the Baptist Parish, a sleepy river community 35 miles northwest of New Orkeans. The estate, promoted as the most complete plantation in the South, is an antebellum gem. It includes, among other things, a Creole and Greek Revival-style mansion, an overseer’s house, a blacksmith shop and the oldest kitchen in Louisiana. Built in the late 1700s by Jean Jacques Haydel Jr., the grandson of a German immigrant with a penchant for fine art, the house walls are adorned with murals said to be painted by the Italian artist Domenico Canova, a relation of the neo-Classical sculptor Antonio Canova.

Yet Mr. Landrieu is far less interested in the Haydels than the legacy of the 254 slaves who once inhabited the nearly dozen shacks behind the big house during Whitney’s reign among the largest sugar farms in Louisiana. His muddy shoes planted in front of a row of neatly situated sun-bleached shacks during a recent visit, Mr. Landrieu nudged a reporter toward what he likes to call a living museum:

“Go on in. You have to go inside. When you walk in that space, you can’t deny what happened to these people. You can feel it, touch it, smell it.”

He compared the experience to visiting the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

Personal politics aside, in an era of proliferating theme parks and “Girls Gone Wild” spring breaks, it is entirely possible that hanging out in former slave quarters — or, for that matter, the adjacent so-called “nigger pen” lockup — runs counter to most Americans’ idea of a vacation. But in post-Katrina Louisiana, where an antidote to recent images of black disillusionment, despair and displacement has so far proven elusive, the recently started African-American Heritage Trail offers a disarmingly triumphant immersion into Louisiana’s rich black history and culture through such powerful juxtapositions of freedom and bondage and the creativity that sprung out of both conditions.

Served up in heaping gumbo-style portions, the African-American Heritage Trail is not always easy to digest: it spans 26 sites, wending its way through museums, marketplaces and cemeteries from New Orleans to Shreveport.

To be sure, this is one wandering, race-obsessed road trip: not even those tasty Cracklin or Boudin balls at Highway 190 truck stops, or the reassuring baritone of the actor Louis Gossett Jr., who narrates a fact-filled audiotape of people and places, can always cut the lull of hundreds of miles of often barren, rural highway. And if you’re toting kids as this trailee was, you might feel at points as if you’re driving the African-American Headache Trail.

But if you can hang in, there’s a realism to this traveling history lesson, with a richly tactile and authentic quality. You’ll find it as you stand in front of the childhood home of Homer Plessy, whose refusal to move from the “whites only” section of a rail car would lead to the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson; as you take in the story of Madame C. J. Walker, the hair-care entrepreneur who bootstrapped her way out of poverty to become the nation’s first black female millionaire; as you stroll through Armstrong Park in New Orleans, named to honor the jazz pioneering work of Louis Armstrong. And of course it’s there in the Cajun and Creole cooking that puts an exclamation mark behind each stop.

In a state that relishes its contradictions, Louisiana’s African-American trail is actually the brainchild of Mr. Landrieu, the white liberal scion of a famous Louisiana political family. In the 1970s, his father, Maurice Edwin Landrieu, known as Moon, made history, and his share of enemies, when as New Orleans mayor, he hired the first blacks into his administration. Mitch, a self-proclaimed champion of social justice, said he conceived the trail as a way of brokering dialogue between the races at a time when the nation sorely needed it, an idea that gained urgency in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“We want to transform the discussion about race and poverty in America,” said the 47-year-old Mr. Landrieu, who served 16 years in the State House of Representatives (his father and sister, Mary Landrieu, also a Democrat and currently a United States Senator, held the same seat). “Many, many white people and black people of good will have been separated by ideological fights that have been powerful. But you can’t transform the discussion if you can’t remember what happened.”

Mr. Cummings puts it another way: “Is black men not caring for their children today in any way connected to slavery? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking. I want to get beyond the moonlight and magnolia myths of the plantation.”

There is a more practical basis for the trail also. “There’s not enough money to build a museum in every parish in Louisiana,” Mr. Landrieu said. So, over the past couple of years, he has spearheaded an effort to link private-sector cultural attractions into a network of state-sponsored tourism programs, from bird-watching to golf tours. The African-American Heritage Trail is but the latest example of fiscal creativity with Louisiana’s tourism program.

“The whole state of Louisiana really is a museum,” he said.

At the turn of the 19th century, Louisiana was a major player in the Deep South in international slave trade, thanks to its location on the Mississippi River and its rise as a sugar capital. Far more compelling than its robust slave population, though, was the culture that developed around it, as a blend of French governance, liberal manumission laws and tradition of racial mixing created an especially unique twist to an already peculiar institution.

A trail weighted with such historical crosscurrents could easily turn into a kind of four-wheel Rubik’s Cube in the wrong guide’s hands. That is why what appears at first blush a freewheeling journey that can begin and end virtually anywhere in Louisiana is best approached with a degree of conformity.

There are some obvious reasons to start the trail in New Orleans, including the fact that airfares to there will most likely be cheapest. But perhaps the most compelling reason to begin in New Orleans is that one of the oldest, richest strains of African-American culture flows directly from there, or more specifically, from Tremé, which according to historians, is the nation’s oldest surviving black community. On the northern fringe of the French Quarter, Tremé, also known as Faubourg Tremé, bears resemblance to a well-to-do Caribbean community, with pastel-colored Creole and shotgun-style cottages and Greek Revival-style homes lining narrow shaded streets.

Throughout the 19th century, Tremé (named after Claude Tremé, a Frenchman who split up the lots and sold them off) was populated by free people of color — many of them fair-skinned French-speaking Creoles — who identified more with their European than African ancestry as they dominated the trades as merchants, businessmen and real estate speculators.

In many cases, their ascension up the social ladder was orchestrated through Cordon Bleu or quadroon balls, private soirees in which wealthy Creole families presented their daughters to white suitors for long-term relationships.

So fascinating are the quadroon balls that you’ll want to visit the African-American Museum, located in the heart of Tremé, for more nitty gritty on these affairs, as well as the lowdown on Tremé’s most infamous Creole woman, Marie Laveau, known as the voodoo queen, who is believed to have resided, at one point, in the Passebon Cottage on the museum’s property.

The centerpiece of Tremé, though, is St. Augustine Catholic Church, which embodies much of the community’s complex cultural narrative. Built in the mid 1800s at the request of people of color, St. Augustine remains the spiritual nerve center of the New Orleans black community.

The church also has the distinction of being one of the nation’s first integrated churches thanks to a legendary “War of the Pews” in which free people of color and whites one-upped one another in purchasing family pews for Sunday Mass. Free blacks not only nabbed two pews for every white family pew, but also gave them as gifts to their enslaved black brethren. After church, and filled with the spirit, colored congregants would migrate to Congo Square (today within Louis Armstrong Park) where they would sing, dance and play music in their native African traditions.

With the French Quarter so nearby, dinner at the Praline Connection, a black-owned, child-friendly Creole soul food joint in neighboring Faubourg Marigny, is a good way to cap the evening — and the New Orleans portion of the trail. While this unpretentious, affordable place, isn’t exactly historic — it was founded in 1990 — its gumbo has earned praise from locals, as have the smothered pork chops and other specialties. And kids, exhausted by now, will squeal as straight-faced waiters serve up fried alligator as nonchalantly as a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.

A few sites on the heritage trail veer from Mr. Landrieu’s “living museum” construct, though they are not necessarily any less satisfying. Among them is the River Road African-American Museum, in the town of Donaldsonville, about 65 miles north of New Orleans. The River Road area is brimming with historical significance: Donaldsonville elected the nation’s first African-American mayor, Pierre Caliste Landry, in 1868, Others who hail from the area include King Oliver, Louis Armstrong’s musical mentor, and a corps of enslaved African-American soldiers who fought with the Union at nearby Fort Butler.

The museum’s founder, Kathe Hambrick, a native of Donaldsonville, enthuses over their tales to audiences as though reminiscing over her own family scrapbook. Ms. Hambrick started the museum in 1994 after living for several years in California.

“Everywhere I turned, there was this word ‘plantation,’ ” Ms. Hambrick said. “And every time I heard it, I would get this knot in my stomach. One day I decided to take one of these plantation tours. It was all about antiques, furniture, architecture and the wealthy lifestyle. But I wanted to know how many lives of my ancestors did it take to produce one cup of sugar.”

Since then, Ms. Hambrick has assembled a collection that combines everything from shackles and plantation tools with antebellum maps and deeds from slave auctions. The production is heavy stuff, and its details, while fascinating to adults, may be less so to small children yearning to return to the open air.

But a couple of hours north, the Louisiana landscape opens wide, and as you travel along Highway 1 toward the town of Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-ah-tish), home of the Cane River Creoles, the hard stories in Donaldsonville fade under the great magnolias that shade the entrance of Melrose Plantation. This is where the love story of Marie-Therese, known as Coincoin, the grand matriarch of Melrose, took place.

Raised as a slave in the household of a Louisiana military commander, Marie-Therese was later sold to Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a French merchant. The two fell in love and she eventually bore him 10 children. Marie-Therese and her children eventually gained their freedom and became wealthy landowners in their own right. As the story goes, Marie-Therese Metoyer owned slaves but also bought many slaves their freedom along the way.

One of her sons, Nicholas Augustin Metoyer, financed the first Catholic church in the United States built for people of color. St. Augustine Catholic Church was founded in 1803 and is located in Natchitoches.

The story of the Metoyers seems to illustrate Mr. Landrieu’s belief that the trail “is about so much more than civil rights — it’s about hope.” He paused, and rephrased his thought for wider appeal. “This trail is really about how hope hits the streets.”

IF YOU GO

The Web site for the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail, louisianatravel.com/explore/cultural_history/african_american_heritage_trail, offers maps and detailed information on the trail’s sites. You can also call (800) 474-8626.

WHERE TO EAT

The Praline Connection (542 Frenchman Street; 504-943-3934; www.pralineconnection.com) in the New Orleans neighborhood of Faubourg Marigny offers affordable local dishes like gumbo and smothered pork chops. Entrees $12.95 to $19.95.

In a restored Art Deco building in historic Donaldsonville, the Grapevine Cafe and Gallery (211 Railroad Avenue; 225-473-8463; www.grapevinecafeandgallery.com) offers arty atmosphere and lauded South Louisiana cuisine, like crawfish étouffée ($13.95) and seafood gumbo ($5.25).

WHERE TO STAY

The major hotel chains might offer convenience for families, but Louisiana boasts a wide array of B & B alternatives. In New Orleans, the Hubbard Mansion Bed and Breakfast (3535 St. Charles Avenue, 504-897-3535; www.hubbardmansion.com), set behind oaks along St. Charles Avenue, blends modern amenities with classic charm for about $160 a night.

Farther north, near Melrose Plantation along the Cane River in historical Natchitoches, there’s the cozy Creole Rose Estates Bed and Breakfast (318-357-0384; www.creoleroseestates.com), a three-bedroom waterfront getaway with scrumptious Creole meals cooked by the host, Janet LaCour. Rates range from $145 for two people to $250 for six people a night.

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Telling the Story That Must Be Told
Story and photos by: Ruth Laney
Reprinted from Country Roads Magazine
www.countryroadsmagazine.com

When Kathe Hambrick left California in 1991, she was living in a corporate world-working as a systems analyst for IBM.

After fourteen years away, she had vowed never to return to the rural South. But when her father became ill with cancer, she and her young daughter moved back to Gonzales, where Hambrick's family owned a funeral home. After her father's death, she worked in the family business.

In her spare time, she toured plantations along the River Road. “I took the tours, thinking I was going to learn something,” she says. “But there was very little to learn.” The tours focused on the “big house,” with its tester beds and petticoat mirrors, but paid scant attention to the support system that made plantations work.

“There was no interpretation,” Hambrick says. “There was little or no mention of black people. As an African American you feel empty, uncomfortable, and tense about what you might see and hear. You have to prepare yourself mentally. You feel anger. You want to know more.”

The turning point came as she stood on the levee overlooking the Mississippi River near Tezcuco Plantation in Burnside. She wondered if Africans had disembarked from slave ships on that very spot. Then she turned and gazed at the land and envisioned African Americans who had worked the fields and cooked the meals. She wept uncontrollably and then, she says, “the crying ceased and the healing began.” She decided to tell their story.

Tezcuco's owners offered her the use of an empty building. She and her brother Darryl painted the 800-square-foot space brick-red and began filling it with artifacts. Artist Malaika Favorite, a native of Ascension Parish, donated a painting on corrugated tin of river preacher George West. It was the first piece of art in the museum.

Hambrick discovered a wealth of historic information-such as the self-taught engineer, inventor, and musician Leonard Julien, who in 1964 patented a sugar cane planter. Julien died a month before she opened her space to the public in March 1994. She called it the River Road African American Museum and Gallery.

The museum drew attention to people like Pierre “Caliste” Landry, elected mayor of Donaldsonville in 1868-the first black mayor in the country. And it paid tribute to the hundreds of slaves brought to Burnside, and to their descendants.

At first Hambrick worried that nobody wanted to be reminded of slavery-for whites it was uncomfortable, for blacks it was painful. “We had to overcome a lot of obstacles,” she says. “From the day I got the idea until the day I opened the doors, I feared that African Americans were not going to want to come. But I held fast to the mission that the story needed to be told.”

With outreach to schools, the community, and tourists, Hambrick soon had many signatures in her visitors' book. People went home and pulled documents and photographs from attics and storage rooms, to help tell the story. Both black and white people contributed. She depended heavily on volunteers, including her mother and brothers.

 She had taken on a monumental task, but Hambrick's tenacious spirit and business acumen were equal to it. (“I worked for IBM for ten years,” she said in 1994. “No boardroom in this world can intimidate me.”)

She networked nonstop, winning grants and corporate support, incorporating as a nonprofit, and joining museum associations. Her ongoing research has taken her to the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Schomburg Center, and Fisk University. Last year she delivered two lectures at the Smithsonian.

In 2002, the museum published Our Roots Run Deep, a history of its founding and an in-depth look at its exhibits. Hambrick plans a genealogy resource book and a cookbook.
Reporters from the New York Times, the London Times, and the Tokyo Times have found their way to the museum. So have Cicely Tyson, Angela Bassett, and Tyra Banks (who sent a signed photo saying it was the highlight of her Louisiana visit).

Says Hambrick, “Every time I got discouraged, somebody would tell me, 'We flew here from Belgium just to see your museum. We found you on the Internet and wanted to bring our children here.' We've had people walk through our doors and say, 'Thank you for being here.' Sometimes they cried.”

Then disaster struck. In May 2002, Tezcuco was destroyed by fire. “I got calls in the middle of the night that the plantation was burning,” says Hambrick. “My first thought was all the one-of-a-kind documents I had. When we got there, the main house had burned to the ground, but our collection was spared.”

But that was small comfort at a scene that looked like hell on earth. “For days after the fire, the ground smoked,” says Hambrick. “The roots of the oak trees were steaming for a week. But they survived.”

She wasn't so sure she would. “I told my family, 'I can't do this any more.' I had just had 20,000 brochures printed and paid big money for a master plan. The idea of starting all over-I just said, 'I can't do it.' But people from Donaldsonville started to show up and say, 'You can't give up.'”

Hambrick had already forged a relationship with the town, which offered to lease land to the museum for a dollar a year. She packed up the collection and moved to Donaldsonville, where she found the historic Brazier House, vacant but in derelict condition.

While the building was being renovated, Hambrick delved into the history of the former capital of the state, once a booming river port. She researched Dr. John Lowery (1867-1941), who graduated from medical school in New Orleans in 1894 and returned to Donaldsonville to establish a practice.

“He was wealthy in the 1930s,” marvels Hambrick. “In the courthouse records, there are fourteen pages listing his fifty properties in the historic district.”

Then disaster struck again. “In 2005 I was just getting my brochures done, and the building was under way,” says Hambrick. “Then Katrina happened and there were no more tourists.”

Now, with Katrina's shock beginning to recede, the museum is again attracting sizable crowds. Next month, it will host Jazz on the Avenue, celebrating the many “New Orleans” musicians born in the river parishes. Hambrick will also dedicate the Freedom Garden, where townspeople help plant and harvest collard greens and shallots. Funded by the National Park Service, the garden is filled with edible and medicinal plants that might have been used by slaves who escaped via the Underground Railroad.
 
In June, the museum will sponsor its fifteenth annual Juneteenth festival, which last year drew six thousand people. And the museum is part of the newly established African American Heritage Trail.

“I feel blessed that I've had the opportunity to be part of a renaissance-accepting African American history as part of American history,” says Hambrick, now known as Kathe Hambrick Jackson following her recent marriage. “There's a lot more to be told. I feel blessed to be part of the telling of that story.”

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JUNETEENTH OBSERVATION CELEBRATES FREEDOM
By Peter Silas Pasqua,
Contributing Writer
www.gonzalesweekly.com

DONALDSONVILLE - In a tranquil observance at the site of Civil War-era Fort Butler, 85-year-old WWII Army veteran of D-Day Lawrence Keller placed a wreath at the granite memorial commemorating the Union Army's African American soldiers who fought for the United States during the Civil War Saturday afternoon.

The event took place in conjunction with the city's annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival, organized by the River Road African-American Museum.

Keller wore the blue uniform of the celebrated 9th Calvary 25th Infantry Regiment, commonly referred to as the Buffalo Soldiers, one of America's first peacetime all-black unit.

The 9th Calvary was formed in New Orleans in 1866.

"It is people like myself that want to keep the legend of history living," Keller said. "We want to encourage young men to be a part of this organization. We are very interested in setting up a chapter here."

Keller said President Harry Truman inactivated the 25th Regiment including all-black units after the World War II.

Sgt. Ernest Taylor of the 932nd Engineering Battalion of the Louisiana, National Guard, Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, State Rep. Roy Quezaire and River Road African American Museum board member Tamiko Francis Garrison also participated in the wreath ceremony.
Shortly before, Keller was joined by fellow Buffalo Soldier John Anderson during the opening ceremony of the event at Louisiana Square.

"The 9th Calvary started in Louisiana and has one of the best military records in the history of this country," Anderson said. "We want to honor those young men that blazed trails and fought for this country from Louisiana. The reason the Spanish - American War ended on the day that it did was that the 9th Calvary broke the line. If anyone knows anything about battle, when you break that line the fight is over with."

Kathe Hambrick Jackson, curator of the museum, said she hopes to develop an educational program in schools about the buffalo soldier.

"As we celebrate our freedom here in Louisiana on this Juneteenth, we have to remember that the troops are in Iraq fighting for our freedom," Jackson said.

Juneteenth commemorates the June 19, 1865, date when news of President Abraham Lincoln's 'Emancipation Proclamation' that freed enslaved blacks reached Galveston, Texas.

The museum sponsors the annual event, which began in 1993 by the late Janet Francis and Delores Scioneaux.

"From 1865 through 2007 we are still celebrating our freedom," Quezaire said. "Please keep in mind the purpose of this celebration."

The opening act of the festival was the River Road African American Museum's Drum and Dance Ensemble led by Luther Gray of Bamboula 2000 and Mama Jamilah.

The festival kicked off Friday night at the Lemann Center with the Donaldsonville Idol Competition.

"We don't have a stump like the Apollo, so we will use a hat to rub on," said host Jamila Peirre.

The NBBC Young Ambassadors for Christ Mime Group won the gospel competition, while Deloyd Dabney and Nathaniel Jacobs of New Orleans won rap and Desiree Nailer won R&B part.

In between performances Saturday, Barbara Trevigne - dressed as Marie Laveau - encouraged patrons to record their family's ancestor's names with the museum. Trevigne does a live reenactment of the voodoo queen.

"I become Marie Laveau," Trevigne said. "I talk about her and the time she lived, all the myths that were written about me all those centuries ago."

Local primitive artist Alvin Batiste spent the day in the children's village encouraging youth to paint.

"Whatever they feel like drawing," Batiste said. "They will come and draw rainbows, trees, people. They are just so creative."

Batiste said he has attended the festival since its inception and also won the annual art contest this year. Joan Thibodeaux placed second and Allison Ezidore took third.

"It was a really good turnout," said organizer Orhan McMillian. "My goal is to have guest artists come out and paint and draw."

"Freedom in the African-American Experience" was the theme of this year's event.

At the children's village, Michael Smith needed four helpers to unload his Guinness World Record-holding alligator made of toothpicks. The creation weighs 320 pounds and measures 15 feet, 4 inches.

Across the square, Parish Councilman Oliver Joseph was buried in a large barbeque pit turning ribs and chicken.

"This is something great for the community," Joseph said. "This is the biggest crowd we have ever had and I love cooking barbeque."

Near the Thibaut Memorial Fountain, Carlos Harris had plenty of help frying more than 350 pounds of catfish and 300 pounds of French fries.

"Every year, it gets bigger and bigger and we cook more and more," Harris said.

Jackson said she was happy with the turnout for this year's event.

"There is a lot of talk about freedom in America today and for those of us who are African Americans, we should really know that the opportunities we have to get an education, worship where we want and gather is what freedom is all about.

"This is not just a festival for African Americans. This is a day for all Americans to celebrate freedom for everybody and teach our children about this segment in history. We live in plantation country, so there should not be anyone who does not know what emancipation means in American history Freedom is worth celebrating anytime."

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Bicentennial Jazz Plaza Dedication
Saturday, May 26, 2007
at
4:00pm
Corner Plaza at Railroad Avenue and Charles Street
Donaldsonville , Louisiana
Featuring International Jazz Greats

Donaldsonville, La - Donaldsonville was a hotbed of musical activity in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Many of the early musicians developed an interest and talent while living on or near the plantations in the rural communities of Ascension Parish. Donaldsonville and Ascension Parish are fortunate to have several notable musicians as native sons. This bicentennial monument will serve as a site of enduring significance that documents, preserves and celebrates the rural musicians, famous and unsung, from this region. It also stands as a monument in recognition of the people and neighborhoods that nourished these musicians and laid the foundation for jazz that carved a uniquely prominent position on the world stage.

Join us for the unveiling of Donaldsonville's first Louisiana historic marker and newly landscaped plaza recognizing legendary jazz musicians from the area such as: Claiborne Williams, Joseph "King" Oliver, Willie Foster, Richard Myknee Jones, George "Pops" Foster, Davidson C. Nelson, and Emanuel Sayles.

This historic event will include a brief presentation by Dr. Joyce Jackson of LSU on the history of jazz and the river parishes. Live music for the dedication will feature Don Vappe,Thaddeus Richard, Plas Johnson (best known for the solo saxophone in the Pink PantherTheme), and Renald Richard (best known as Ray Charles' first band leader). A special tribute to Claiborne Williams will be played by New Orleans ' only female brass band, The Pinettes. The public is invited.

Sponsored by the City of Donaldsonville ,The Bicentennial Commemorative Jazz Committee, Donaldsonville Tourist Commission.

For More Information
Contact: Kathe Hambrick,
225-474-5553
aamuseum@bellsouth.net

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L'Applause: Louisiana Black Film Festival
January 2007

 

The River Road African American Museum in conjunction with the Louisiana Old State Capitol Museum are pleased to announce a unique exhibition and film series in celebration of Black History Month 2007. The exhibition features 25 vintage movie posters and four Sunday movie matinees from February 12, 2007 to March 12, 2007. This program offers insight into the portrayal and progress of blacks in the American film and theatre industry. It provides a rare glimpse and historical examination of black screen images dating back to the 1930's. The posters and movies chronicle the long journey of this country's first African American stars, including Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, Spencer Williams, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and Paul Robeson. Each forged a role for black entertainers that countered or reinforced stereotypes while creating a thriving, independent culture in American cinema and theatre.

  • Vintage Movie Poster Exhibit at the Old State Capitol Museum
    February 12, 2007 - March 12, 2007; 10am - 4pm Tues. - Sat.; Noon - 4pm Sunday

  • Opening Gala Reception and Screening at the Old State Capitol Museum
    Friday, February 16, 2007 6:00pm; 7:30pm Screening of Black Orpheus (1959)
    Reception sponsored by the Baton Rouge Visitors and Convention Bureau.

  • Vintage Film Sunday Matinees at the Old State Capitol Museum
    February 18, 2007; 2:00pm; Carmen Jones (1954)
    February 25, 2007; 2:00pm; Green Pastures (1936)
    March 4, 2007; 2:00pm; Lilies in the Field (1962)
    March, March 11, 2007; 200pm; New Orleans (1947)

For more information about the opening gala reception honoring Lynn Whitfield, Valerian Smith, Douglas Turner Ward, Wendell Pierce, Marquetta Cheeks, Rachael Emanuel and others who have made contributions to the film and theatre industry, please call Kathe Hambrick at 225-474-5553, Terrie Julien at 985-369-7422, Regina Perry at 255-383-1825.


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Donaldsonville marks Juneteenth
Town elected first black mayor in U.S. in 1868
By DAMIANE RICKS
Advocate staff writer
Published: Jun 11, 2006

DONALDSONVILLE - In the city where the first African-American mayor in the nation was elected to office, hundreds came together Saturday to celebrate the end of slavery and those who fought for freedom.

Louisiana Square, a park in Donaldsonville's Historic District, was the site of the River Road African American Museum's annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival. The Juneteenth celebration dates back to 1865 in Galveston, Texas, when word arrived of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation more than a year earlier, a presidential action ending slavery.

Three years later, the city of Donaldsonville elected former slave Pierre "Caliste" Landry as mayor, said River Road Museum director Kathe Hambrick. Landry later won election to both the Louisiana House of Representatives and the state Senate.

Escorted by members of the SLR and ASAP motorcycle riding clubs, Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan Sr. and other elected officials kicked off the festival by laying a wreath at the Fort Butler memorial, commemorating the slaves who died under oppression and the black soldiers who fought for freedom in the Civil War.

"It's important that the young people know a lot of people struggled that we would have the freedom we have today," Sullivan said. "The more we celebrate Juneteenth and our heritage, they'll understand our fight to enjoy freedom."

Sullivan is the fourth African-American mayor in Donaldsonville's history, which dates back two centuries to its founding in 1806.

State Rep. Roy Quezaire Jr., D-Donaldsonville, described the weekend's Juneteenth Festival observances as both cultural and educational experiences.

Festival-goers milled about from tent to tent at Louisiana Square, browsing through the goods of various vendors or taking advantage of information and free medical screenings by healthcare providers.

The River Road African American Museum tent showcased the many contributions African-American men and women have made through inventions, from everyday items such as John Stanard's refrigerator and John Arthur Johnson's wrench to the complex helicopter by Paul E. Williams and Leonard Julien Sr.'s sugarcane-planting machine.

In keeping with this year's festival theme, "Music - The Ultimate Expression of Freedom," the crowds enjoyed an array of live performances ranging from blues and reggae to zydeco and hip hop.

"Music has played an integral part in our history, starting with the freedom songs sung by slaves while toiling in the field," Quezaire said. "Those songs kept us focused on our ongoing quest for freedom."

Zenobia Batiste of Prairieville led festival-goers in singing one of those freedom songs, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." The song has become known as the black national anthem, she said.

Despite its obvious importance to the African American community, the Juneteenth celebration is for all people, museum director Hambrick said.

"Is freedom just for black people?" she asked. "Freedom is for everyone."

Story originally published in The Advocate.


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The Advocate - Baton Rouge, La.
(Copyright 2006 by Capital City Press)

Julie Belafonte, wife of actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, visits the River Road African American Museum in August while touring New Orleans and scouting for an international film on sugarcane in the region. Belafonte was a dancer with the Katherine Dunham Dance troupe in the 1950s. While in Donaldsonville, Mayor Leroy Sullivan and museum director Kathe Hambrick presented Belafonte with a key to the city.



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By: Peter Silas Pasqua
The Donaldsonville Chief
Photos by Peter Silas Pasqua

Former Ascension Parish Superintendent of Schools Ralph Ricardo Sr., right, was the keynote speaker at the River Road African American Museum's 12th anniversary banquet. He attended the banquet with his sister Eleanor Young and wife Doris Ricardo, center.
River Road African American Museum celebrated its 12th anniversary Saturday night with a banquet honoring black educators from the river parishes.

The event drew hundreds of guests to Rose's in St. James parish, where a fried catfish dinner and the jazz music of Rhodes Spedale kept spirits high.

There was also a silent auction and a panel discussion revolving around education. A powerful exhibit featuring articles on the historically black schools in the area greeted quests as they entered along with a PowerPoint presentation of pictures provided by patrons.

On display was a small bench desk from Central Agricultural School in Convent that used to seat three children, according to former principal Clifford Roberts. The school has since been moved to Donaldsonville and will house the River Road African American Museum in the future.

It housed 68 students when Roberts, 86, became principal in 1951. He attended the banquet with his wife, Gloria W. Roberts, 80, who was a teacher at Cypress Grove Elementary School, also in St. James Parish. They met when Clifford taught at Xavier University which Gloria attended.

"I always wanted to help people," Roberts said of why he became a teacher. "You didn't teach for much money then. There wasn't a world of work for black people. A black person with an education only had a few career choices." Gloria said the banquet was overdue recognition and is the beginning of bringing back the history of black schools.

Museum director and curator Kathe Hambrick and board member Claudia Celestine put together the exhibit on display at the banquet.
"Teachers have always been left out and we worked hard to educate our black kids because we know how important education is," Gloria said. "After they integrated the schools they wiped out a lot of the history of black schools. All the trophies and awards."

Museum director and curator Kathe Hambrick said the exhibit is only a portion of a permanent exhibit that will be housed in the building. "Some of this is at the museum now but a lot of it comes from new research," Hambrick said. "I am just going to have to store it until the building is ready."

Hambrick said she has a long list of ideas she keeps of themes for the museum's banquet and was inspired after learning how many people from Donaldsonville went to college while researching for last year's banquet on medicine pioneers.

From a 1906 map of the city of Donaldsonville she discovered a preparatory department of Leland University once stood on Claiborne Street and a negro public school once stood near where city hall is today. "I was wondering what did those schools look like and who taught there," Hambrick said. "How could have education been so important to young people and parents 100 years ago and now we have such a difficult problem keeping children in school."

The highlight of this year's banquet was a panel discussion that included St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace, Willis Octave, Felika Taylor, Iberville Parish Constable Reginald Brown, Charlie Stephens Eartha Rayborn and Kelly Davis which was facilitated by Lisa Scott.

Questions on the advantages and disadvantages of integration, in school suspension compared to discipline in the past, the Leap test and the 'No Child Left Behind' program were posed to the panel.

Clifford Roberts, former principal of Central Agricultural School in Convent attended the banquet with his wife Gloria.
"I am a big fan of CSPAN and I thought there were some issues that might be interesting to discuss here in a rural area," Hambrick said. "It wasn't just entertaining. It was informative."

Ralph Ricardo Sr., former Ascension Parish Superintendent of Schools who became the first African American superintendent in the State of Louisiana in 1981 was the keynote speaker.

"I understood the politics, the patronage and those things that got in the way of teachers delivering services to young people," Ricardo said, "but together we turned this system into a premiere education system in the state of which I am proud."

A 1951 graduate of Lowery High School, Ricardo remembers students from Sunshine to Destrehan boarding with individuals to attend the high school.

"Lowery was one of the few black high schools along the river that was a complete high school," Ricardo said. "This is the type of community building we had here. We brought in some of the outstanding speakers of the time to serve as an inspiration to young people."

Lowery Intermediate principal Sheryl Comeaux-Dillion, an educator of 22 years, said she felt pride in the work previous administrators and teachers did.

"It wasn't it vain," Dillion said. "They are the ones that shaped this education system."

Donaldsonville Primary School principal Marydine Emery compared the gathering of teachers to a reunion.

"Everything that we faced is like a fellowship," said the educator of 30 years. Donaldsonville High School teacher Brian Richardson said he came to the banquet to show appreciation to past educators. He currently teaches an African American history class.

"These are the people that inspired me," Richardson said. "They laid the foundation. There was no integration and blacks didn't get the same treatment as whites. They fought through all that and paved the way for me." Richardson described teaching as "a cycle of love."

"If it wasn't for these educators here today the cycle would have never got started," Richardson said. "I have a responsibility to keep the cycle going." Retired teacher Claudia Celestine envisioned a tribute to teachers in the 1960's.

"This is a dream come true," Celestine said. "The education system was a thing that gave black people inspiration because the social systems had disappointed them. Without education we would have been loss."


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Louisiana Legacy
Excerpted from Southern Traveler
www.ouraaa.com

The hundreds of enslaved people brought to plantations along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge are recognized for their contributions to Louisiana’s culture and economy in the River Road African American Museum. Originating at Tezcuco Plantation in 1994, the museum relocated to Donaldsonville (406 Charles St.) after fire destroyed the main house in 2002. Kathe Hambrick, founder and director, cites the historic town’s large population of free blacks prior to the Civil War as a natural complement to the “freedom stories” she relishes telling.

Hambrick seized the chance to incorporate landmarks at the Donaldsonville site, expanding the museum’s mission to include buildings as well as artifacts and art. Today, various exhibits–including Louisiana cuisine, jazz, the Underground Railroad, Reconstruction and rural medical practitioners–occupy a Creole-style cottage. Soon the nearby Central Agricultural School, a Rosenwald-funded school built in 1931, will open to focus attention on black education in plantation country. True Friends Hall, a benevolent society building dating from the 1880s, and the Africa Plantation House wait in the wings for restoration.

People, however, form the heart and soul of this growing museum. Slave inventories, data on hundreds of monde de couleur libre (free people of color); the 20th-century inventor of the sugarcane-planting machine, Leonard Julien; famous folk artists; and original documents of Madame C. J. Walker (America’s first female self-made millionaire) are all on display. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday–Saturday and 1–5 p.m. Sunday. Museum tours are $4.

For its accomplishments, the River Road African American Museum garnered one of 10 national Living History and Museum Preservation Awards given by American Legacy magazine in 2005. The museum also is the first Louisiana member of the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom, a collection of sites across the nation associated with the Underground Railroad.



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True Friends of the Flood Benevolent Society

Benevolent Societies played a vital role in the lives of African Americans during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Plagued by high rates of illness, mortality and unemployment, members of such groups were far better able to weather crises than non-members. By participation in such societies, African Americans were able to acquire skills in running organizations – writing constitutions, keeping minutes, and learning bookkeeping. Perhaps more importantly, benevolent societies were aimed at strengthening and unifying the black community.

Few of these associations or societies remain today. Most of the members are deceased or memberships have dwindled to a few faithful older members. In the spirit of the hundreds of benevolent associations which existed throughout the South, a group of friends and I have organized the True Friends of the Flood Benevolent Society, also known as TFFBS or True Friends of the Flood. This non-profit corporation is formed for the purpose of assisting families in general and families affected by the Katrina hurricane devastation with housing, education, childcare, and general welfare. We hope that the formation of the True Friends of the Flood Benevolent Society of Louisiana will be a catalyst for others who want to help friends and families displaced by Katrina.

So far, True Friends of the Flood has:

  • Distributed to local churches a load of new clothes and supplies sent from Manhattan, NY by eighteen wheeler
  • Assisted a young mother with two sons in reuniting with her family in Brooklyn, NY via air from a shelter at Lamar Dixon
  • Assisted a young couple with two sons with a donation of gas money. After driving from place to place with no money and living in a shed here in Donaldsonville, they sought to relocate as soon as possible to find opportunities.
  • Registered families of three or more for a relocation program to Cincinnati, Ohio which includes job training, free rent, food, clothing and checking account.

At this time we are only able to accept donations by mail and by direct deposit so please help and become a member by sending your donations to:

  • True Friends of the Flood Benevolent Society
    406 Charles Street
    Donaldsonville, La. 70346
    Tax ID# 59-3817197


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Letter From The Director Regarding Hurricane Katrina

As most of you know, we in Louisiana are working with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. South Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have been devastated. First we want to thank you for your phone calls and emails of love and support and we join you in prayers for all of those who have suffered from this disaster.

Please know that the museum, collections, artifacts and buildings that make up the River Road African American Museum have been spared. We are safe and well. At this time we are focusing our energy and time to help the many victims and evacuees that have sought shelter here in Donaldsonville and in Ascension Parish.

Many of you have expressed interest in helping by volunteering and donating. We’ve included a list of contact information of various groups and organizations that need help here in Donaldsonville and Ascension Parish so that we may help our neighbors who have sought refuge here. Please continue sending us your prayers as together we are rebuilding, reuniting, and recovering.


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River Road African American Museum to receive American Legacy Magazine Museum Preservation Award

New York, NY - American Legacy Magazine, the magazine of African -American history and culture is proud to announce the winners of the 2005 Living History and Museum Preservation Awards. The magazine the awards at its 10th Anniversary Gala on Wednesday, September 14th in New York City.

  • Ten (10) museums from across the country will be among the winners:
  • River Road African American Museum - Donaldsonville, LA.
  • Dusable Museum of African-American History - Chicago, Ill.
  • Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, Detroit, MI.
  • Great Blacks in Wax Museum - Baltimore, MD
  • Apex Museum - Atlanta, GA
  • Buffalo Soldier Museum - Houston, TX
  • Black History Museum - Richmond, Va.
  • Kansas African-American Museum - Wichita, KS
  • African-American Museum of Nassau County - East Meadow, NY
  • African American Cultural Complex - Raleigh, NC

Other award winners will be:

  • Gil Noble of "Like It Is", a program addressing African -American issues for more than 30 years
  • Myrlie Evers-Williams, Civil Rights activists and former Chair of the NAACP
  • Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery, who along with Dr. Martin Luther King was one of the founding fathers of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
  • Melvin Van Peebles, a pioneer in African-American cinema

"As we celebrate our 10th anniversary this year, we wanted to make a special effort to acknowledge those institutions that are doing extraordinary work to preserve our history and heritage," said Rodney J. Reynolds, Founder and Publisher of American Legacy Magazine.

The award celebrates excellence in preserving the historical and cultural perspectives of the African-American experience. To be eligible, museums had to provide information on previous projects and an outline of their plans for future programming which promote the African-American experience in each of their local areas.

Each museum will receive a monetary grant and will be highlighted in an upcoming issue of American Legacy Magazine. The magazine is distributed nationwide to over 2.25 million readers through black churches, educational and cultural institutions. It is also available on newsstands and through paid subscriptions. The magazine is operated as a joint venture with the American Heritage division of Forbes Magazine.

The New York event will be hosted by actor and comedian, Sinbad: entertainment will by Grammy-award-winning R&B vocalist Regina Belle.


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Donaldsonville Juneteenth celebrates family reunions
By Chelsea Renee Brown
Gonzales Weekly
www.gonzalesweekly.com

Local artist Alvin Batiste teaches painting techniques to (left to right) Shenneta R., Josh C., Jermaine C., and Janira C. under the children’s tent at the Juneteenth Festival Saturday. Photo by Chelsea Renee Brown
“Freedom is worth celebrating all the time,” said Kathe Hambrick, founder and director of the River Road African American Museum in Donaldsonville. Hambrick helped kick off the town’s 11th Annual Juneteenth Festival last weekend in celebration of African American Independence on June 19, 1865.

The Louisiana Juneteenth Holiday Campaign, founded by Sadie Roberts-Joseph, has made the festival a town tradition for over 11 years, after designating the celebration an official state holiday.

“I try to attend as many festivals as possible throughout Louisiana each year,” said Roberts-Joseph. “My campaign is currently working hard to make Juneteenth a national holiday also.”

This year’s theme, Family Reunions, was represented in the historical exhibits, arts and crafts, African dancing, and cultural music throughout the grounds, where friends and family across Ascension gathered to enjoy live entertainment, good food, and the festival’s famous lemonade.

Donaldsonville’s mayor, Leroy Sullivan, joined Saturday’s festivities, along with several city councilmen, including the town’s first African American Councilwoman, Monica FeFe.

“Its wonderful to see everyone come out for the celebration,” said Sullivan. “I look most forward to grabbing a bite to eat.”

State Representative Roy Quezaire made an appearance Saturday. He said he cut the ribbon for the official opening of the African American museum, and has been participating in the Juenteenth celebration from the day of the very first festival.

“This holiday is part of everybody’s history,” said Quezaire. “It is an identity piece of our culture that blends into the multi-cultural cloth of America.”

Friday night was the official start of the party with a “Stomp” performance by the Delta Sigma Thetas, followed by the first annual talent show, featuring over 20 contestants, at the Lemann Memorial Center. Competing against the various dancers, singers, and musicians, Sara Dugas won the first place prize for her dance routine to the lyrics of Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.”

“I am very happy with the success of our talent show,” said Hambrick. “The place was packed with people from age three to senior citizens. We are definitely going to continue to include the show as part of the festival.”

The talent show was not the only competition that gave locals a chance to shine. The festival also hosted an art contest. Participants were allowed to use any artistic method to illustrate a painting, drawing, sculpture, or photograph that incorporated the celebration’s theme. The winning artwork was then displayed for the public on Saturday. First place was awarded to Eric Werner of Donaldsonville for his untitled watercolor. Elliot Williams received second place, Welmon A. Comeaux III was awarded third, and the honorable mention was granted to Trey Christopher Williams.

Locals groove to the tunes of the Uknodat New Orleans Brass Band Saturday during the weekend-long Juneteenth Festival.
Aside from the talent, parade, good eats, and cultural crafts Saturday, the community celebration truly focused on African American family culture. The Children’s Village tent featured both fun and educational activities such as face painting, storytelling, games, and African art and dress. The public was also able to research their family history inside the Genealogy tent, with Dr. Dolores Walters of the National Freedom Center, and browse through the history of a number of influential African Americans of the past provided under the Black Inventors tent.

The influence of African culture can still be seen today, as illustrated by Marilyn Thorton, who set up a tent to share the charitable works of Heritage International Ministries of Baton Rouge. As the Apostolic Overseer for the organization, she directs mission trips for all around the world. Her tent provided brochures, prayer requests, and contribution forms, along with a video for visitors to watch the ministries in action.

“Our ministries preach the gospel and minister to the communities,” said Thorton. “We have gone to Africa for the past three years and are planning to establish a medical clinic and bible school there.”

Hambrick was pleased with the high attendance of the festival, and said she wants to pay a special thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, and vendors that made it happen. She said she was also thrilled with the number of visitors who took the time to walk down and observe the museum.

“I estimate that there were about 8,000 people that came out to see us,” said Hambrick. The weekend was a great success.”


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JUNETEENTH FREEDOM FESTIVAL
“FAMILY REUNIONS”
June 10-12, 2005

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery in America. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. In Donaldsonville, Louisiana, we commemorate freedom by emphasizing education and achievement. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity.

This three day celebration is an annual event, held the second weekend in June with family gatherings, picnics, food, historical exhibits, arts & crafts, African dance, live musical performances by gospel, jazz and R & B musicians. The festival location is Louisiana Square, 300 Railroad Avenue, in the beautiful historic district of downtown Donaldsonville.

Special featured tents include the Children’s Village Tent with old-time games, folk art demonstrations, face painting, traditional African dress and storytelling. An interactive Genealogy Tent will allow visitors to log on and research family genealogy with assistance from Dr. Dolores Walters, with the National Freedom Center, and volunteers from the library. . The Black Inventions Tent will feature over 100 black inventions. The festival also includes a family reunion parade, food, arts & crafts booths, and live musical performances by gospel, jazz, and R &B artists.

People of all ages, races, nationalities and religions are invited to join us as we celebrate and acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today.

Volunteers are needed, please call the number below. Meetings are on Monday at 6pm at the Ascension Parish Library in Donaldsonville. Vendor booths are $50.00 per day and vendor trailers are available for $100.00 per day. Click here for applications. Contact us for more information.

The festival is FREE TO THE PUBLIC.



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River Road African American Museum 11th Anniversary Banquet
Date: Saturday, March 12, 2005
Place: Rosie’s by the Sunshine Bridge
Entertainment: The Jazz Nurse 7:00 p.m.
Dinner, Exhibit, Silent Auction & Program: 8:00 p.m.

On Saturday, March 12, 2005 the River Road African American Museum will celebrate its 11th Year Anniversary. The exhibit and program theme for this year’s celebration is Pioneers in Medicine. This program is dedicated to the black doctors born in the rural river parish communities, some of whom received their medical degrees as early as 1894.

In the mid 1800’s medical schools were closed to African Americans in the south and to a lesser degree in the north. Because of the color line in medicine, the first few African American physicians received their medical degrees abroad. Fortunately, black medical schools evolved at Howard University, Meharry, and New Orleans University.

Join us for this historical occasion as we celebrate the accomplishments of Dr John H. Lowery, Dr. Sidney Brazier, Dr. Luther C. Speight, and Dr. Ulysses G. Daley all of Ascension Parish; Dr. John Watkins and Dr. Feastor R. Dean of Iberville Parish, Dr. Leo S. Butler of Iberville and East Baton Rouge; Dr. Ernest N. Ezidore of St. James Parish and St John Parish and Dr. Emma Wakefield of Lafourche Parish. Also included, is this area’s first Medical Hall of Fame, comprising a list of doctors from around the country who graduated from local schools in the river parishes.


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First Week of October Brings Tourist Back

The River Road African American Museum is ready for the busy tourist season. Typicall August and September are slow months because people are getting the children back to school and returning home from early summer vacations.

October brings back school field trips, and visitors from around the country.After giving thirty five LSU professors a presenation about the rural communities in South Louisiana, Kathe Hambrick accompanied the the group on a tour of the St. Martinville African American Museum.

The museum staff and volunteers, Debra Price, Janice Linton and Juanita Dandridge handled things back in Donaldsonville. Thirty five visitors from Freeport, N.Y., the African - Atlantic Genealogy Society, Inc....toured the River Road African American Museum.

On Thursday night, Kathe Hambrick visisted the group at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Baton Rouge to answer questions about genealogy in the river parishes. The group of 30 danced to the cha cha slide, sang Motown karaoke and enjoyed a "Down Home Blues Lunch" at Hambonz after the tour.


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406 Charles Street  |  Donaldsonville, LA 70346
Phone: 225.474.5553  |   kathe@aamuseum.org
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