As many people gear up for a weekend of celebrating Juneteenth, this year being the first that it’s recognized as a federal holiday, a huge focus will be on the hard struggles that our ancestors went through in order for us to obtain this current level of freedom.
A former church in Louisiana now operates as an exhibition dedicated to reminding visitors of the 272 enslaved people that were sold to sugarcane planters in 1838 by the founders of Georgetown University in order to pay off school debts.
The grounds that River Road African American Museum in Donaldsonville now stand on was originally donated by slave owner and Louisiana governor Henry Johnson for construction of an Episcopal church in 1873. According to The Advocate, a lack of members led the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana to decommission the church several years ago. The permanent exhibit, titled “GU272 and Ascension Parish: The Jesuit and Episcopal Connection to Slavery,” was funded by grants from the Social Science Research Council’s “American Slavery’s Legacy Across Space and Time” program and the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park of the National Park Service. Georgetown’s Jesuit order apologized formally back in 2017 to descendants of the enslaved.
More info on this future home of our history below, via The Advocate:
“Historian and genealogist Karran Royal of New Orleans was the historian for the new exhibit. She and others founded the GU272 Descendants Association, and Royal served for several years as its executive director.
For the new permanent exhibit in Donaldsonville, Royal said she ‘went more deeply into family lines in Ascension Parish.’
‘Working on the project helped me uncover so many details about these families,’ she said.
Royal learned, for example, that the descendants of Henrietta Hill, a woman sold by the Jesuits and brought to Louisiana, include a founding dean of Southern University, a president of Grambling University and a Reconstruction-Era sheriff.”
River Road artist-in-residence Malaika Favorite was commissioned to add an art component by creating vibrant acrylic panels that will be set into frosted-glass windows for a stained-glass finish. A daytime opening reception is scheduled for June 18, with the exhibit going on display until 2PM. Afterwards, viewing will be set up based on appointment only.
If you’re in Louisiana and need plans for Juneteenth, bring the family!
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