Freed Will: The Randolph Freedpeople From Slavery to Settlement
“Freed Will: The Randolph Freedpeople From Slavery to Settlement,” explores one of the largest emancipations in American history. Nearly 400 formerly enslaved people journeyed hundreds of miles from Virginia to Ohio. They meant to claim land that was willed to them after they were freed. Upon their arrival to the Miami Valley, they were met with threats of violence. This is only the beginning of their story, which does not end in tragedy. The exhibit consists of nineteen panels and several display cases. Follow the Freedpeople’s history from freedom, their grueling pilgrimage and legal battles to community building in the present day.
There are many impactful objects in the exhibit. There is an ornate family bible, Mills Brothers guitar, and a 16th-century manilla bracelet. The photos and artifacts were from Helen Gilmore. Gilmore, a Randolph descendant from William and York Rial, founded the Springcreek Rossville Historic House Museum. She and her husband bequeathed the museum’s contents to the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center. Gilmore She founded the Springcreek Historical Society and ran the Rossville Historic House Museum. She collected photos and stories of Randolph descendants until her death.
The Ohio History Connection and the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center created the Freed Will exhibit. It is a traveling exhibit and opened at the Piqua Public Library on September 1st, 2018. The display is open to the public during regular library hours. Admission is free. It will be on view until November 1st, 2018.