BY SARAH GREGORY
Passing on and preserving African American family and community history from the earliest post-slavery years in East Tennessee will be the focus of a special two-day "Echoes of Emancipation" event here in October.
"Echoes of Emancipation: One Region, Many Voices," presented by the African-American Heritage Alliance (AAHA) of East Tennessee, will take place Oct. 4 and 5 at Tusculum College.
The upcoming conference will mark the 150th anniversary of the 1863 Emancipation with historical presentations, workshops, roundtable discussions and panels, poetry, music, theatre, and art from the East Tennessee region.
Special focus will be put on preserving local family and community history from the first 50 years following Emancipation. Discussions about how to preserve and pass on the history of black churches, schools, and cemeteries will also be a focus.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY EMPHASIS
Event organizers from AAHA, the George Clem Multicultural Alliance (GCMA), the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Tusculum College, and others gathered this week in an organizational session to discuss the event's schedule and promotion.
Dr. Beth Vanlandingham, of Carson-Newman University, explained that the focus at this year's conference is family and community stories from the first 50 post-slavery years in East Tennessee.
Preserving the stories, Vanlandingham said, is a primary focus, and grant funding secured for the event will allow it to be professionally recorded as a means of preserving community history.
All events with the exception of a Greeneville black history bus tour and Saturday evening reception will be held in locations on the Tusculum College campus, including in the Chalmers Conference Center, the Niswonger Commons, and the Behan Arena Theatre.
A number of presentations have been scheduled for the Echoes of Emancipation event, each with a special speaker and emphasis.
* Freedom Journeys: U.S. Colored Troops Soldiers and African-American Identity;
* From Africa to Appalachia: Local Traditions and Global Fusion in Art;
* Emancipation Celebrations and African American Resilience; and,
* From the Ground Up: Building Communities of Faith and Education.
Speakers include Harry Bradshaw Matthews, founding president of the US Colored Troops Institute at Hartwick College; "Afrilachian" artist Sammie Nicely, of Russellville and Atlanta, Ga.; Dr. George White of York College of City University of New York; Third Judicial District Assistant Attorney General C.C. Mills Jr., and Stella Gudger, of Swift College Museum in Rogersville.
In addition to the historical addresses, a number of panel presentations, discussions, and workshops will be held.
* Aug. 8 and Echoes of Emancipation in East Tennessee;
* Black Cemeteries: Saving Cemeteries, Preserving Stories, and Building Community;
* Writing the Nelly Van Vactor Story: A 19th Century Black Woman of Property; and,
* Telling Tales: An Oral History and Artifact Preservation Workshop.
PERFORMANCES AND ART
In addition to discussions, the conference will include performance and visual artists from around the region.
* Horace Smith in the Paul Robeson Story;
* poetry reading by Dr. Bethany White, of Carson-Newman University;
* gospel singing by Greeneville-area choirs;
* gospel and jazz performance discussion with Vincent Dial;
* art show opening and reception for Sammie Nicely, and,
* a performance by African drummers.
More events and presentations are also planned for the Echoes of Emancipation event, including a Greeneville Black History bus tour with lunch.
All of the conference's events are free; however, lunch on the bus tour will cost $5 per participant.
Reservations for the bus tour are required as space is limited.
Additional information about the topics, presenters, and event schedule is available on AAHA's website, http://www.aahaonline.net or by calling 865-471-3323.