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Telfair project receives national award

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah, a "multi-year project encompassing a major publication, a museum exhibition, a three-day city symposium, and multiple community partnerships," according to a spokesperson, has received the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

The Leadership in History Awards, now in its 69th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. In making the announcement about this Telfair Museums-operated project, AASLH said, “the winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history.”

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah, a book published earlier this year, provides insight into urban life across 300 years of Georgia history. Published by the University of Georgia Press, the book was edited by Leslie Harris, associate professor of history and African American studies and Winship Distinguished Research Professor at Emory University in Atlanta, and Daina Ramey Berry, associate professor of history and African and African diaspora studies and George W. Littlefield Fellow in American History at the University of Texas at Austin.


“Our goal was to build on scholarship across fields of history, literature, anthropology, and art to provide insight into a rarely explored aspect of our collective American past,” saysTelfair Museums Director and CEO Lisa Grove. “But the critical part of this project has always been to share the information with the community—through the book, exhibit and two historic sites—and present it in such a way that it inspires interest and enthusiasm to know the larger story.”

The Slavery and Freedom in Savannah project is part of Telfair Museums’ ongoing efforts to document the lives and labors of the African Americans—enslaved and free—who built and worked at the original Telfair historic homes, the Owens-Thomas House and Telfair mansion.

The corresponding Slavery and Freedom in Savannah exhibition, on display at the Jepson Center through August 31, uses a collection of historic objects and stories to illustrate the themes in the book.

“Although rural and plantation-based slavery are somewhat familiar to visitors to the south, urban slavery is rarely interpreted,” said Tania Sammons, Telfair Museums’ senior curator of decorative arts and historic sites and director of the project. “But as the book and exhibit point out, urban slavery was instrumental to the slave-based economy in Savannah and throughout North America. This part of the story has national significance and fills an important gap in our understanding of our collective American past.”