28 Sep, 2012

a visit to the yates museum

Sehba Sarwar
28 Sep, 2012

My friend Christine arranges a breakfast meeting with Catherine Roberts, who serves on the board of the Rutherford B.H. Yates Museum, that’s close to my friend’s house on Andrews Street in the heart of Freedmen’s town. I’m meeting with Catherine to see if perhaps VBB can use the Museum as part of our December 1 living room art production, Homes and Histories.

The R.B.H. Yates Museum is “dedicated to preservation of the cultural history, brick streets, archaeology, and architecture of the early residents of Freedmen’s Town”. Built between 1898 and 1900, the home was the home of Reverend Ned P. Pullum. Today, an archeological museum has been created in the space.

After breakfast, Roberts takes me on a tour of the house, which is now marked as historic. Inside the museum, the foundation exhibits neighborhood artifacts, photographs, newspaper clippings and objects. One room contains a tall stack of boxes containing material that still have to be sorted through and tagged; in the backyard are areas that are marked for digging and exploration.

“This room,” Roberts says, opening a door to side room, “was the ‘guest room’ where out-of-town visitors stayed. There were no hotels for African Americans to go so they came here and these homes were built so visitors could have a place to stay. THey were given separate entrances…”

We walk out on Andrews Street and Catherine points to the cobbled street. “The city wants to tear these historic red bricks. They say they want to redo the streets and they’ll put the bricks back…but these are the last of the bricks that were made by the Freedmen’s Town’s first residents….”