Frenchtown Oral History Now Made Public


    The Frenchtown Historical Marker Trail was unveiled today by the city of Tallahassee and John G. Riley Museum. The trail has sound boxes that play oral histories of the area.

    There are nine historical markers along the trail. They feature historical photos of Frenchtown. Next to the markers is a black sound box with buttons. When pressed, they play recordings of residents talking about the neighborhood’s history. Project head and local historian Althemese Barnes says the project has been in the works for years.

    “I just had this concern that so many people who were dear to me were passing away. Not just my family, but my Sunday school teachers, my school teachers, and other people that I just knew who had done great things in the community, and it seemed as though once they were gone, everybody forgot,” Barnes says.

    She interviewed residents from 1998 to 2005 and used those recordings for the markers. Barnes says she hopes the younger generation will take notice.

    “There was the café’s, the stores, the drug stores. They need to realize that it didn’t all just happen with us living now. Someone before us brought us all to this day,” Barnes says.

    During segregation years, Frenchtown played a significant role in Tallahassee’s African American community. The area was self-sustaining with flourishing businesses. But as the years went on, businesses closed and houses were torn down to make way for development. Barnes hopes the markers help keep the spirit of Frenchtown alive.

    This story originally appeared on WFSU News.