Tall Timbers was honored to host over 60 K-12 educators from across the country during the first few weeks of July. The educators were here as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant awarded to the Thomasville History Center.
The twenty-year-old NEH program is called “Landmarks in American History” and it focuses on place-based learning on various topics.
The History Center’s topic this year was the “Quest for Freedom: The Long Civil Rights Struggle from Reconstruction to Brown v. The Board of Education.”
During the week-long workshops, educators and scholars met at various locations across southwest Georgia and North Florida to learn about Reconstruction, tenant farming, The Resort Era, military service and civil rights.
Sites visited included Tall Timbers, Pebble Hill Plantation, the Jack Hadley Black History Museum, the Thomasville History Center and the Thomasville Regional Airport.
At Tall Timbers, we were honored to visit the Jones Tenant House and get first-hand accounts of tenant farm life and life during Civil Rights era.
We were blessed to have some of the Jones descendants spend time sharing their personal stories about growing up on a tenant farm and what that experience was like. Their firsthand accounts were hugely impactful for the teachers.
One comment we received afterwards was “the incredible opportunity to hear from and experience locals who are connected to the land and history was amazing. Loved Mrs. Thompson and Becky Sloan.”
Located at Tall Timbers in northern Leon County, the Jones Tenant House was restored and opened as a permanent exhibit in 2008. The restored buildings provide an opportunity for visitors to walk on an authentic tenant farm, and learn firsthand about the key role Black tenant farmers played in Southern agriculture and the evolution of hunting estates in the Red Hills.
The exhibit design has five interpretive panels where much of the story of tenant farm life is told by the tenants themselves through voice recordings. The National Register of Historic Places designated Tall Timbers as Florida’s first cultural landscape in 1989.
The tour was led by Kevin McGorty, the former director of Tall Timbers’ Land Conservancy, Historical Resources Coordinator Juanita Whiddon and volunteer Curtis Johnson who also showed folks the historic Beadle House and its incredible collection of resources relating to the Red Hills.
Throughout the week educators had an opportunity to become the students for a week and learn from each other as well as from the visiting scholars. Subject matter experts like McGorty, Jack Hadley, Julia Brock, Gregory Mixon, Kurt Piehler, Jennifer Brooks, Maxine Jones and Le’Trice Donaldson all leant to learning about the rich history of the Red Hills.
The idea behind place-based learning is that when one takes the time to enter into a dedicated space where events took place they experience the objectives of the topic that much more intensely.
The other advantage of a program like this is that educators from across the country get to share how they design and implement curriculum and meet state standards.
Teaching has some universal truths to be sure, but there is much that is personal about the work and bringing that knowledge and experience to the forefront for discussion is what makes programs like these so impactful.
The Thomasville History Center is incredibly grateful to all of its partners on this project for their openness and hospitality to share the work that they do to preserve and share the history of the region.
Anne McCudden has been the Executive Director of the Thomasville History Center since 2016. Prior to her time in Thomasville, Anne spent 25 +years working at museums across South Florida including the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, the Boca Raton Children’s Museum and the Women’s Park of Miami-Dade County.