Uncover Post-Civil War African American History at These Attractions in Columbia, South Carolina – Episode 158

Attractions in Columbia, South Carolina - South Carolina African American history. Black history travel.
Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

Discover things to see and attractions in Columbia, South Carolina, offering a blend of African American history, art, culture, and heritage. Welcome to the heart of South Carolina. The capital city of “The Palmetto State” named after Christopher Columbus. Columbia offers visitors the unique opportunity to dive deep into American history and learn about the Reconstruction Era, an often misunderstood time. This short period from 1865 to 1877 was a challenging time of integrating the southern states back into the Union after the Civil War. Although the American Civil War and the ending of slavery are well-known historical events, the experiences of newly freed African Americans in the immediate aftermath are often overlooked — and, quite frankly, ignored.

However, efforts are being made to draw greater attention to the Reconstruction Era, emphasizing its significance in shaping American history. Columbia, South Carolina, is leading the charge with the Reconstruction Era Trail, which tells the story of the post-Civil War period as it happened in Columbia, South Carolina. This history trail highlights the trailblazers and the important locations that shaped this complex period and its lasting impact on issues of race, civil rights, and the legal status of African Americans.

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This episode is for you if you are looking for places to visit in Columbia, South Carolina, or are interested in historical places or historic sites in Columbia, South Carolina.

Columbia is studded with historic homes, landmarks, sites, and museums preserving and interpreting American history, particularly African American history within Columbia and beyond.

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We explore the transition from slavery to freedom, the challenges faced, and the progress made by African Americans, including establishing communities, access to education, and economic opportunities.

Visit these historical and cultural attractions in Columbia, South Carolina that showcase the African American experience post-Civil War.

In this episode, we cover:

  • [1:46] – African-American Challenges Post-Civil War
  • [2:40] – Historic Sites in Columbia
  • [4:05] – Museum of the Reconstruction Era
  • [5:58] – African-American Family Reunification
  • [7:27] – Political Changes and Backlash
  • [8:09] – The End of Reconstruction
  • [16:10] – Columbia’s Washington Street Corridor’s Significance
  • [22:57] – Paths to Freedom Exhibit at McKissick Museum
  • [25:08] – Reflections on Ancestral Strength

This Reconstruction Era-inspired episode is made in partnership with Experience Columbia SC, where you’ll find things to do, year-round events, and everything you need to plan an unforgettable trip. Visit experiencecolumbiasc.com to learn more, and follow @columbiasc on Instagram for what’s happening in town and even more trip ideas.

Things to see in Columbia SC

Reconstruction Era Brought Significant Change

The Reconstruction Era, following the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, brought about significant change in American society.

When Black men gained the right to vote, they began to occupy elected positions and serve their communities in dynamic ways. This led to the rise of the Black Power Movement and brought about groundbreaking changes in South Carolina. The establishment of the public school system and the availability of social services for all, regardless of race, were among the significant achievements of the Black majority in the legislature, who were Republicans at the time.

However, in 1876, a white supremacist was elected into power, leading to the swift removal of most of the positive changes made during Reconstruction. The white elite class not only undid the actions taken but also systematically reshaped the narrative surrounding the Reconstruction Era. Over time, the period came to be dismissed as a difficult and negative time in American history when, in reality, it was a period of opportunity for the Black community.

Racial tension rose during this time as white people resented the changes that were taking place. False narratives were spread, downplaying the severity of slavery and portraying Reconstruction as a failure.

The 1915 film, “Birth of a Nation,” further fueled racial hatred by glorifying the Ku Klux Klan and reinforcing negative stereotypes about African Americans. Even President Woodrow Wilson hosted a screening of this movie at the White House, perpetuating racial tension.

These actions and the removal of federal support and protection for African Americans through the Compromise of 1877 marked the end of the Reconstruction. The consequences of the end of Reconstruction were far-reaching. Southern states became more autonomous and passed laws motivated by racism, leading to the Jim Crow era. Systemic racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans became the norm in the Southern United States. This period of oppression and inequality would eventually fuel the Civil Rights Movement.

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Historic Attractions in Columbia, South Carolina

1. Museum of the Reconstruction Era at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home 

Explore Columbia’s racial, social, and political landscape during the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era by visiting The Museum of the Reconstruction Era, the nation’s only museum dedicated to interpreting the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and South Carolina’s only remaining presidential site. 

This 1871 well-preserved Italian villa-style residence was home to a 14-year-old boy named “Tommy” Woodrow Wilson, the future 28th president of the United States. Although he lived here briefly, what he saw in Columbia is said to have affected how he viewed African Americans and potentially influenced his presidency. 

Walking through the historic home, you’ll see items that belonged to the Woodrow family, like a family photo album, family quilt, bible, Tommy’s childhood desk, and other items common to the period like locally-made pottery, dresses worn by middle-class women, at the time, and more. However, the focus of the museum is on Reconstruction.

Family

After the abolishment of slavery, African Americans were able to reunite with their families, establish institutions such as schools and churches, and negotiate new terms of labor.

Putting notices in churches, advertisements in newspapers, and even visiting plantations were common ways to find lost family members across the country. 

Marriages were now legally recognized. 

Freedom of Religion

African Americans established Black churches as havens for religion and community, making them the center of Black communities.

Wage Labor

Moving from enslaved labor to wage labor, many Black people stayed in their line of work but began negotiating their pay.

Education

In 1873, the South Carolina legislature established the State Normal School, later known as South Carolina State University, which played a crucial role in training teachers, specifically African American teachers. African Americans now had access to public schools where they could formally learn how to read and write.

But with all these changes and progress, there was backlash. 

I had a chance to sit down with Robin Waites, the Executive Director of Historic Columbia, an organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the complex history of Columbia and Richland County.  

We discussed the importance of dismantling myths around Reconstruction and the decision to have guided tours instead of self-paced or audio tours.

Reconstruction has been so misrepresented over time that it can be hard to unpack. And it’s important for us to dismantle the myths of Reconstruction. And so having another human be able to walk you through that and talk about some of the really complex stories, to be able to ask questions, to really create dialogue, is an important part of the experience for us.

Robin Waites

The Museum of the Reconstruction Era was truly enlightening. It provided me with a better understanding of what freedom looked like for African Americans who were freed from slavery. It also helped me conceptualize how their rights were gradually taken away, leading to segregation, the establishment of Jim Crow laws, and eventually the Civil Rights Movement. The emancipation of slaves wasn’t the end of the story. On the contrary, it was the beginning of a new chapter. 

If you want to learn about the times that influenced a region, a nation, and President Woodrow Wilson, don’t miss The Museum of the Reconstruction Era when you visit Columbia.

Some notes about the tour – During the guided tour, I was grateful to have a personal tour guide named Heather. She walked me through the historic home, highlighting areas I may have missed, sharing complex stories, providing deeper context, and answering my questions.

I highly recommend taking the time to examine all of the displays and read the detailed signs, as there is a lot of information to cover.

Keep in mind that tours of the house’s interior are by appointment only.

2. Our Story Matters Gallery

Visit “Our Story Matters Gallery” at the Columbia Museum of Art to learn about African American life and culture in Columbia from Reconstruction through the 1970s.

The exhibition, Intersections on Main Street: African American Life in Columbia, features photographs, newspaper clippings, maps, and historical artifacts highlighting people’s lives and experiences in downtown Columbia. 

One of the things I wasn’t expecting to see was framed portraits. Those picture frames on the cabinets looked so homey, like what you would find in your grandmother’s living room or someone’s den. It’s not something you’d expect to see at a museum. 

Images from famed photographer Richard Samuel Roberts’ studio make up the exhibition’s core. 

To share what visitors can expect when visiting the gallery and more about the importance of the Washington Street corridor, which was a hub for Black businesses post-slavery until the 1970s, I’m joined by Dr. Bobby Donaldson, who leads the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at the University of South Carolina-Columbia and lead historian and scholar of Columbia SC 63.

The historic district dates back generations to the period of post-slavery during the period of Reconstruction. During this period, African-Americans were beginning to create a world of their own. They were creating their own self-sustaining communities, organizations and institutions behind the barriers of racial segregation. One of the landmarks in that Washington Street corridor is the Zion Baptist Church, a church that was established right after the Civil War, and that continues to be a powerful landmark in that area. And the Zion Baptist Church is just one example of what African Americans decided to do to create a world of their own. And so during that period, they created their own businesses, they created their own Masonic lodges, their own churches, their own schools. And so I tell people that the Washington Street Corridor, in many respects, is a monument to Black ingenuity, Black creativity, Black resilience, and Black resistance during the 19th and early 20th centuries.”

Dr. Bobby Donaldson

3. Paths To Freedom Exhibit 

In South Carolina, cotton was an important component of the agricultural economy. Did you know that 80% of the state’s enslaved participated in cotton cultivation and harvesting?

At McKissick Museum, I had a chance to visit Paths To Freedom, a temporary exhibit by master printmaker and photographer John E. Dowell that featured digitally edited photographs imagining the escape experience of enslaved African Americans as they sought freedom from bondage. 

Knowing that slaves didn’t run away in the daytime, Dowell started by asking, “What would an enslaved person feel and think the night before escaping bondage? Where would they get the strength and courage to start such a dangerous journey?”

It’s believed ancestors have an obligation to assist their descendants — communicating through dreams, visions, and religious services. 

Dowell believes his grandmother spoke to him in his dreams. It all began in 2011 when he had dreams of his grandmother (who had passed away 45 years prior). His grandmother, Lucy “Big Mommy” Dowell, had grown up near a cotton field.

Inspired by the Underground Railroad, Dowell puts the viewer in dark, moonlit cotton fields in the middle of the night. 

Do You See Them (2020) by John E. Dowell at McKissick Museum, Paths To Freedom exhibit.

My favorite piece was ‘Do You See Them’ (2020), where the fields are so dark that you barely see small groups congregating. It forced me to lean in, and I wondered if I missed any more huddling groups. I loved this unframed image because it puts you in this dangerous and frightening scenario. Still, there’s comfort in knowing the spirits are guiding you to freedom.

Listen to this podcast episode on Spotify.

I left Columbia with new insights, a stronger connection to American history, a greater understanding of the past, the importance of the Reconstruction Era, and its ongoing relevance as we grapple with equity and access today.

Despite the uncertainty, racial tensions, and all of the social, political, and economic changes during that time, there was a feeling of optimism, hope, freedom, and opportunity among newly freed African Americans. Things we can all connect to today.

If you enjoyed this episode, I invite you to follow The Thought Card Podcast on your favorite podcast player and continue the series. You’ve just read and listened to the first of many stories in this African American heritage series, which takes us across the country.

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Read the full episode transcript.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Welcome to the heart of South Carolina, the capital city of the Palmetto State, named after Christopher Columbus. Columbia, South Carolina offers visitors the unique opportunity to deep dive into American history and learn about the Reconstruction era, an often misunderstood time in history. This short period from 1865 to 1877 was a challenging time of rebuilding the nation by integrating the Southern states back into the Union after the Civil War. Although the American Civil War and the ending of slavery are well-known historical events, the experiences of newly freed African Americans in the immediate aftermath are often overlooked. Efforts are being made to bring greater attention to the Reconstruction era, emphasizing its significance in shaping American history. Columbia, South Carolina is leading the charge with the Reconstruction Era Trail, which tells the stories of the post-Civil War period as it happened in Columbia, South Carolina. This history trail highlights the trailblazers and the important locations that shaped this complex period and its lasting impact on issues of race, civil rights, and the legal status of African Americans. While in Columbia, I wanted to learn about the transition from slavery to freedom for African-Americans, including the challenges they faced and the progress made. I had so many questions. How did African-Americans reunite with long lost family members separated by slavery? Now, with access to education and religious freedom, how did they build communities to support one another? What about the economic opportunities in cities like Columbia, where Washington Street became a thriving Black-owned and operated business district? Despite all the progress, what challenges and setbacks did African Americans face? Why is this period of time controversial and not well represented in traditional historical narratives? As you can see, there's a lot to unpack here, and I cannot wait to share my findings with you. Columbia, South Carolina is studded with historic homes, landmarks, and sites, as well as museums, preserving and interpreting American history and particularly African-American history within Columbia and beyond. In this episode, we're visiting three historical and cultural attractions in Columbia, South Carolina, that showcases the African-American experience post-Civil War. This Deep Dive Reconstruction Era episode is made in partnership with Experience Columbia SC, where you'll find things to do, year-round events, and everything you need to plan an unforgettable trip. Visit ExperienceColumbiaSC.com to learn more and follow Columbia SC on Instagram for what's happening in town and even more trip ideas. Welcome to The Thought Card, a podcast about traveling money where planning, saving and creativity leads to affording travel, building wealth and paying off debt. We are the financially savvy travelers. So first we have Museum of the Reconstruction Era at the Woodrow Wilson family home. Here, you can explore Columbia's racial, social, and political landscape during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era by visiting the Museum of the Reconstruction Era, the nation's only museum dedicated to interpreting the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and South Carolina's only remaining presidential site. This 1871 well-preserved Italian villa-style residence was home to a 14-year-old boy named Tommy Woodrow Wilson, the future 28th president of the United States. Although he lived here briefly, what he saw in Columbia is said to have affected how he viewed African-Americans and potentially influence his presidency. Walking through the historic home, you'll see items that belonged to the Woodrow family, like a family photo album, family quilt, Bible, Tommy's childhood desk, and other items common to the period, like locally made pottery, dresses worn by middle-class women, and lots more. However, the focus of the museum is on reconstruction. So during the Reconstruction era, the North and the South had the task of reuniting as one nation. African-Americans were no longer enslaved, so this was new territory. After the abolishment of slavery, African-Americans were able to reunite with their families, establish institutions such as schools and churches, and negotiate new terms of labor. Hooding notices in churches, advertisements in newspapers, and even visiting plantations were common ways to find lost family members across the country. Marriages were now legally recognized. African Americans established black churches as havens for religion and community, making them the center of black communities. Moving from enslaved labor to now wage labor, many black people stayed in their line of work, but began in negotiating their pay. At the time, 90% of domestic workers hired to perform chores were African American. However, there were opportunities outside of domestic work and manual labor. In 1873, the South Carolina legislature established a state normal school, later known as South Carolina State University, which played a crucial role in training teachers, specifically African-American teachers. African-Americans now had access to public schools where they could formally learn how to read and write. But with all of these changes and progress, there was backlash. I had the chance to sit down with Robin Waits, the executive director of Historic Columbia, an organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the complex history of Columbia and Richland County. We discussed the importance of dismantling myths around reconstruction and the decision to have guided tours instead of self-paced or audio tours.
Robin Waites: When Black men gain the right to vote, And as a result, you began to see black men in elected office and serving throughout the community in some really dynamic ways. So for the first time, post-emancipation, you began to see kind of the rise of the black power movement, and you began to see significant change happen across South Carolina. from things like the establishment of the public school system, to all sorts of social services that were available, not just to an elite white population, but to anyone. And these were really significant, groundbreaking changes that were enabled by the black majority in the legislature. and 1876 there was an election that brought kind of a white supremacist back into power from an elected position and you saw this really swift removal of most of the changes that had been made, the positive changes during the Reconstruction era. So it's this, you know, we talk about it as this really positive period in American history and in South Carolina's history, but pretty soon after Leight Hampton III came back into power, you began to see the story change because the people in power were the white mostly wealthy, kind of elite class of people, and they began to dismantle not only the actions that took place, but the way that people talked about that period. And so over time, over generations, you began to see the dismissal of the Reconstruction era as a really difficult and challenging and negative time in American history, when in fact it was this kind of bubble of opportunity in the black community in particular that was so important in framing who we are as a community and I think as a country today.

Danielle Desir Corbett: During this time, racial tension rose as white people resented their way of life being taken away from them. The built-up frustration and opposition resulted in the spreading of false narratives that slavery wasn't so bad and that Reconstruction was a failure. Maybe you even learned about such failures in school. Distorting history, the 1915 film, Birth of a Nation, promoted racial hatred by glorifying the Ku Klux Klan as heroes and portrayed African Americans as incapable of serving in public office. President Woodrow Wilson even hosted a screening of this movie at the White House in 1915, which reinforced racial tension. For example, At the museum, you'll learn about the Red Shirts, one of the rifle clubs in South Carolina during Reconstruction. The Red Shirts used intimidation and violence to achieve political goals for the Democratic Party. Throughout the museum, you'll also find artifacts like shotguns used by white gun clubs for fraudulent campaigns aimed at attacking and killing Black men. So if you remember, I mentioned Reconstruction Era came to a halt in 1877. So how did the Reconstruction Era end? Okay, so here's a quick recap. The Reconstruction Era ended with the contested presidential election of 1876 due to disputes over electoral votes in several states, leading to the Compromise of 1877. As part of the compromise, federal troops were removed from the South, which resulted in the removal of federal support and protection for African Americans. This allowed Southern states to become more autonomous and pass laws that were restrictive and motivated by racism. This led to the Jim Crow era, which was characterized by systemic racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans in the Southern United States. Overall, the Museum of the Reconstruction Era was truly enlightening. It provided me with a better understanding of what freedom looked like for African Americans who were freed from slavery. It also helped me see the context for how their rights were gradually taken away, leading to segregation, the establishment of Jim Crow laws, and eventually the civil rights movement. The emancipation of slaves wasn't the end of the story. On the contrary, it was the beginning of a new chapter. If you want to learn about the times that influenced a region, a nation, and President Woodrow Wilson, then don't miss the Museum of Reconstruction era when you come visit Columbia.

Robin Waites: This story, I think, in particular, of Reconstruction, is one that has been so misrepresented over time. that it can be hard to unpack. And it's important for us to dismantle the myths of Reconstruction. And so having another human be able to walk you through that and talk about some of the really complex stories, to be able to ask questions, to really create dialogue, is an important part of the experience for us. We shifted this from when it was a shrine to Wilson, it was a period house museum. And so you would walk in and there was a bedroom here, there was a parlor here, there was a dining area here. But it was all contrived, it wasn't anything based on what we really knew about Wilson and his family. And so now it is, we talk about it as a museum that's in a historic house, so there are panel exhibits, there are some collections, there are interactives throughout the museum. And it can be experienced just walking through on your own and reading the panels and interacting with things, but We have found that, again, because I think of the way that we are telling the story and the importance of, again, dismantling some of the myths around reconstruction, having somebody available to help navigate that has been really important. And we do that at all of our sites. People are moving away from the guided experience. And for us, that's, I think, one of the character-defining features of who we are. and that we train our volunteers and our staff really well so that they are able to navigate some of the complexities. And having somebody to really kind of guide and bounce ideas off of has been important for us.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Next, visit our Story Matters gallery at the Columbia Museum of Art to learn about African-American life and culture in Columbia from Reconstruction through the 1970s. The exhibition, Intersections on Main Street, African American Life in Columbia, features photographs, newspaper clippings, maps, and historical artifacts, all highlighting people's lives and experiences in downtown Columbia. One of the things I wasn't expecting to see was framed portraits. Those picture frames on the cabinets looked so homey, like what you would find in your grandmother's living room or someone's den. It's not something that you'd expect to see at a museum. Images from the famed photographer Richard Samuel Roberts' studio make up the exhibition's core. To share what visitors can expect when visiting the gallery and more about the importance of the Washington Street Corridor, which was a hub for Black businesses post-slavery until the 1970s, I'm joined by Dr. Bobbi Donaldson, who leads the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and lead historian and scholar of Columbia SC63.

Dr. Bobby Donaldson: I think Columbia Museum of Art visitors can go into their former gift shop and they can be immersed in a history of Afro-American life in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. In that space, there are photographs, there are reproductions of archival materials, there are objects that showcase Afro-American life in the historic business district along the Washington Street corridor. And so you can go in that space and you can see images of African-American businesses, African-American schools, African-American churches, and many of the individuals who were pioneering figures in the history of Columbia.

Danielle Desir Corbett: We'll definitely talk about the photographs because I felt that they were very moving and I definitely have my questions. But I want to go take a step back for a second and talk about the Washington Street corridor, this hub for Black businesses thriving during the Reconstruction era and even through the late 1960s. And not only that corridor, but also other areas of the city as well. So can you share how this historic district in particular impact Columbia and the Black community throughout the decades?

Dr. Bobby Donaldson: Well, the historic district dates back generations. It dates back to the period of post-slavery during the period of Reconstruction. And during this period, African-Americans were beginning to create a world of their own. They were creating their own self-sustaining communities and organizations and institutions behind the barriers of racial segregation. And one of the landmarks in that Washington Street corridor is the Zion Baptist Church, a church that was established right after the Civil War, and that continues to be a powerful landmark in that area. And the Zion Baptist Church is just one example of what African Americans decided to do to create a world of their own. And so during that period, they created their own businesses, they created their own Masonic lodges, their own churches, their own schools. And many of these organizations and spaces were in the Washington Street Corridor. And so I tell people that the Washington Street Corridor, in many respects, is a monument to Black ingenuity, Black creativity, Black resilience, and Black resistance during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Danielle Desir Corbett: One of the things that for me was really impactful when I was visiting and walking through the gallery was seeing the action shots from the Civil Rights era, but also the still portraits, which I think for me personally was different because it wasn't what I was expecting. So I'd love for you to be able to share the behind the scenes of the photographer, Richard Samuel Roberts, who took these photos and why these self-portraits or these portraits are such a big and core component of the gallery overall.

Dr. Bobby Donaldson: So your observation underscores an intent. We were trying to show the intersection. We were trying to show the intersection of history, We were trying to show the intersection of Main Street and Washington Street in downtown Columbia. And we were trying to show the intersection of African-American life. So you have in that exhibit photographs that go back to Reconstruction and all the way up to the 1970s. You have photographs that showcase prominent people and people we have no idea who they are. And there's a constant search to verify the identifications of people. You have photographs that show Washington Street in its heyday, when it was a vibrant, thriving commercial and social district. And then you have photographs that show the community in its demise during the period of the post-civil rights era, when many of those businesses disappear from the landscape. You also have photographs of students and organizations who are challenging segregation. So even though they are populating the vibrant Washington Street Corridor, they also are turning their eyes elsewhere and making it very clear that this practice of segregation is no longer satisfactory. And so they are now beginning organized demonstrations. And you are literally watching a photographer move step by step with students through downtown Columbia. Now, the irony of the exhibit is that the exhibit is in the Columbia Museum of Art. And that very space was a series of downtown department stores that practice racial segregation. So in this space, which was once a site of segregation, we now have a space that provides an area of interpretation about this effort by citizens of Columbia to demand changes in their communities. One of the anchors of the exhibit are the photographs of Richard Samuel Roberts, a self-trained photographer who was really an artist. Mr. Roberts worked by night as a janitor at the Columbia Post Office, and by day, he had a thriving photography business on Washington Street. And anyone with means could come in and have their picture taken. And we know that during the course of Mr. Roberts' short professional career, thousands and thousands of images were taken. When Mr. Roberts dies in the mid-1930s, regrettably, his photography studio is closed, and all of the negatives that he had in his studio are taken to his home, the house that is still standing, and all of those negatives are placed in the crawlspace of his house. And from the mid-1930s to the early 1970s, those images are in the crawlspace of his house. because of the work of his family, an archivist at the University of South Carolina, those negatives were later recovered and placed in an archive, and now we're digitizing those images. And there are thousands of negatives that have now been digitized that showcase African-American businesses, African-American churches, African-American leadership, and it showcases people we don't know. So when visitors go into the gallery, they will see the images that Mr. Roberts captured over 90 years ago, now on display, giving audiences a very different portrait of life in downtown Columbia in the 1920s and 1930s.

Danielle Desir Corbett: In South Carolina, cotton was an important component of the agricultural economy. Did you know that 80% of the states enslaved participated in cotton cultivation and harvesting? At McKissick Museum, I had a chance to visit Paths to Freedom, a temporary exhibit by the master printmaker and photographer John E. Dowell that featured digitally edited photographs imagining the escape experience of enslaved African Americans as they saw freedom from bondage. Knowing that slaves didn't run away in the daytime, Dowell started by asking, what would an enslaved person feel and think the night before escaping bondage? Where would they get the strength and courage to start such a dangerous journey? Well, it's believed ancestors have an obligation to assist their descendants, communicating through dreams, visions, and religious services. Dowell believes his grandmother spoke to him in his dreams. It all began in 2011, when he had dreams of his grandmother, who had passed away 45 years prior. His grandmother, Lucy Big Mommy Dowell, had grown up near a cotton field. Inspired by the Underground Railroad, Dowell puts the viewer in dark, moonlit cotton fields in the middle of the night. My favorite piece was Do You See Them, where the fields are so dark that you barely see small groups congregating. It really forced me to lean in, and I wondered if there were any more huddling groups I may have missed. I absolutely loved this unframed image because it really puts you in this dangerous and frightening situation. But then again, there's comfort in knowing the spirits above are guiding you to freedom. Putting myself in the ancestors' shoes, I thought about what they had to endure to survive, which really gave me pause. Today, I shudder at that thought. I left Columbia with new insights, a stronger connection to American history and a greater understanding of the past, the importance of the Reconstruction era and its ongoing relevance as we grapple with equity and access to this day. Despite the uncertainty during the Reconstruction era, the racial tensions, and all of the social, political, and economic changes during that time, there was a feeling of optimism, hope, freedom, and opportunity among newly freed African Americans. Things we can all connect to today. For more on my trip to Colombia, including things to do, where to stay, and places to eat and drink, including a number of Black-owned establishments, visit my website at ThoughtCard.com to check out my Colombia travel guide and articles. A huge thank you to Experience Colombia for teaming up with me on this episode. And a special shout out to Dr. Bobby Donaldson and Robin Weitz. I recommend checking out other episodes in our African American Heritage series. We feature various destinations across the country, such as Charleston, South Carolina, and Yuga County in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Thank you for listening, and I'll see you next time.

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