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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Dr. E.B. Palmer presents roses to Ann Hunt Smith
Dr. E.B. Palmer presents roses to playwright Ann Hunt Smith while cast of The Amistad Saga  looks on. Photo courtesy AACC

African American Cultural Complex

Raleigh, North Carolina, is home to the African American Cultural Complex (AACC), founded by Dr. E.B. Palmer and his wife, Juanita, as a museum and educational center dedicated to exploring and honoring African-American history. The museum, which doubles as the Palmers' home, is filled with their collection of Black Americana, and their three-acre backyard is dedicated to three cottages filled with exhibits, an outdoor stage, a small amphitheater, and nature trails. Forty thousand visitors a year come to view the exhibits and, in the summer of 1999, thousands viewed the production of the play, The Amistad Saga: Reflections, moved into reality by the vision and driving force of the Palmers.

The Palmers, both educators, had become aware that the standard school curriculum did not cover African-American history in any depth, only briefly mentioning Booker T. Washington and Sojourner Truth. Dr. E.B. Palmer developed guidelines for integrating more black history into the standard texts. In his research, he discovered that African-American artifacts and relics were almost non-existent in regional museums, so he began collecting such items and identifying everyday inventions that were created by blacks.

During his research in 1993, Dr. Palmer stumbled upon the story of the Amistad, an event not well known at the time, the story of a rebellion of illegally enslaved Africans off the coast of Cuba in 1839. He realized the story's ramifications for the American judicial system and for the history of North Carolina. The Amistad incident had prompted the founding of the American Missionary Association, an organization that raised money for legal trials for blacks. Believing that the story of the Amistad needed to be told, the Palmers determined to bring the story to life through a theatrical production at the AACC. Several grants from the Community Foundation funded the writing of the play by playwright Ann Hunt Smith, and the hiring of a composer, director, artists, musicians and choreographers to mount the production. The play came to fruition in the Palmers' backyard in the summer of 1999, with 63 cast members, and audiences that numbered into the hundreds each night.

Originally submitted by: John Edwards, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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