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A Visit to Atlanta History Museum

I am no stranger to Atlanta. The city also known as "The New York of the South" has etched so many memories in my mind. From traveling to Atlanta as a child to visit my dad's older sister who was a flight attendant for Delta, to partying in the early 2000s, then moving there when my daughter was around 6, and now traveling there to visit my mom and brother, I am no stranger to the mecca of the South. However, this past summer I began to see Atlanta in a different light and with a new perspective.

My viewpoint towards travel has changed. Visiting Atlanta was the catalyst for approach traveling in a more meaningful, connected, and mindful way. Personally, my dreams are to travel to find the stories, experience the culture, and do the memory work that offers an opportunity to learn more about the rich history of the South. This summer was the seasonal springboard for new creative practices like archiving and studying black culture in the South.


If I started anywhere, using travel to inspire my work, Atlanta was the best place to begin. I visited the Atlanta History Museum on a whim and so glad that I ventured towards Buckhead for a day at the museum.


A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

Before driving into the city to visit the museum, I did a quick Google search to do a bit of research on the museum, what exhibits were currently showing, and how kid friendly it was. My son came along for the day so I wanted to be mindful of his needs and the expectations of the museum. I quickly learned we would be okay.

The Atlanta History Museum has indoor exhibitions as well as a 33 acres of garden space in the case we need to take a break in nature.


The Atlanta Historical Society was founded in 1926 to preserve and study Atlanta history. In 1990, after decades of collecting, researching, and publishing information about Atlanta and the surrounding area, the organization officially became Atlanta History Center. What began as a small, archival-focused historical society grew over the decades to encompass 33 acres of curated Goizueta Gardens, four historic houses, varied programming, and a range of signature and temporary exhibitions housed in the Atlanta History Museum.

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

Starting with a record presentation on the history of Atlanta, past events, development, and ending with what is to come, I learned so much about Atlanta in a 5 minute video. From the beginning of its conception, Atlanta has been focused on business. Atlanta's prosperity is all due to its strategic stance on developing a city. Focusing on the exchange of goods and services and business that generated high profits and headquartering within in Atlanta, it has become the city known for a progressive field of vision.

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

There is no city in the American South that has not had astronomical contributions made by Black people. Atlanta has always been coined the city for affluent, educated, and business minded Black people. While historically being known fighting against racism and injustices, I've always equated the black people in Atlanta to be self sustaining and sufficient.


The Explore Black Atlanta Exhibit was on view during my visit. I'm so glad I had a chance to see and learn more about the contributions of black folks in Atlanta on a much deeper level. Through a collection of photographs, historical documents, and stories I learned more in this visit about the history of Black people in Atlanta than a textbook could ever have shared.

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

The images truly reflected just how impactful Black people were to growth of Atlanta then and even now. I could not help but to be moved by how tenacious Black people were in chartering new territory in a deeply Southern and racist city, together.


Black real estate developers in the 1970s developed neighborhoods for Black residents. Black women such as Grace Towns Hamilton leading the way to insure charters were rewritten to provide more Black representation in business. Historically Black colleges being on the frontline in the civil rights movement and beyond. And, businessmen forming relationships to invest in the startup of major businesses owned by Black people and for Black people.


This single visit and exhibition has inspired much of the work I will do moving forward. It has become the springboard to my very own archival project that lends a deep understanding of the Black experience in America in particular the South. It seeks to document, preserve, and reclaim my own family's wealth and lifestyle, our ways, and our impact culturally to the American South.

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

The Garden

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

After experiencing several of the exhibits, I sat out to immerse myself in the 33 acres of garden space and the historical home that is still on the grounds. Walking out of the museum into a breathtaking view of the garden is still etched in my memory. Atlanta is a unique city nestled in a forest. It is metropolitan city known for its abundance of urban nature spaces

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

Given a map of the gardens, I decided to take the path toward Olguita's Garden. It leads you on a quaint walk through a magical forest of trees and beautiful native plants of Georgia.

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

After walking through an enchanting path of nature, a gorgeous mansion, The Swan House. Designed by Philip Trammell Shutze in 1928 for Edward and Emily Inman, Swan House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although impressed by the architecture and restoration of the home, my mind went where I'm sure other black people touring historic homes in the South goes.

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

I began to ask questions that I already knew the answer to, nevertheless, I questioned.


How did the Inman's obtain their wealth? Surely, it was from the very profitable cotton industry and the generations of inherited wealth that were built from the labor of Black folks in the South. I did learn that Edward Inman was heir to a large cotton brokerage fortune amassed after the Civil War. He was an Atlanta businessman with interests in real estate, transportation, and banking. His wife Emily was involved in philanthropy, politics, and society.


The Atlanta History Museum cites something that has me unsettled in how factual this statement is and how one correlates to another.


"Many household staff members were African American men and women. Discriminatory Jim Crow legislation created barriers to education, politics, and employment for many black southerners. However, during this time, Atlanta was home to a rising black middle and upper classes due in part to the large group of black universities and black owned businesses and cultural institutions."


How does the work conditions of the "staff members" or earnings relate to a separate group of Black people pursuing higher education and entrepreneurship relate to being servants in the home of a wealthy white family.


These are the questions I have begun to ask myself while aspiring to travel through the American South especially historical sites. Who is lending the larger perspective in the narratives? How are we truly depicting the culture and lifestyle of the South during those times?



I truly believe there needs to be a revival of some sort in the way in which we tell stories and how we share history. The roots of Black people run so deep in this country and I believe our encounters with the truth aren't being told. It is my hope to use travel and weaving in an archival practice to unearth those stories. They may be painful. They may warrant the truth to be told once and for all. They may give power to a generation of younger people.


For example, while visiting the Smith Farm that is on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center, I couldn't help but to notice a softening of the truth or a false depiction of what we were all witnessing. Glazing over the fact that the farm was the enslavement grounds, the museum lends the narrative towards nature sharing the landscape with gardens and heirloom flowers. Not mentioning or even including photographic archives of the enslaved Black people who lived on the Smith Farm, who planted those flowers or tended to the animals that are in the photographs.


A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

We can't change history but we can offer a way to engage in the way America tells the stories, archives the practices, and documents the story of all people. I thoroughly enjoyed the Atlanta History Museum.


Seeing how people whether white or black were forward thinking in developing the city into what it is today is so inspiring and motivating. I didn't expect to be moved the way I was by getting a closer look into how the Black community gathered round to support each other, advance the livelihood of each other, and rise up into influential classes.


I need to visit again to see all of the gardens and enjoy the restaurants and more. There is so much to take in that another visit without a kid would be just what I need.

A VISIT TO ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM

Atlanta History Center is open Tuesday–Sunday from 9am–4pm; historic houses open at 11am.


Atlanta History Center

130 West Paces Ferry Road NW

Atlanta, GA 30305

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