“Inspired by Their Untapped Potential”: A Macon Juneteenth Exhibit Hopes to Celebrate and Inspire

ͼ President and CEO Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is part of a new exhibit at the Tubman Museum in her hometown of Macon, Georgia.

Dr. Valerie Montgomery RiceDr. Valerie Montgomery Rice
President & CEO, ͼ

MACON, GA — Juneteenth is observed as a holiday on Wednesday, June 19.

Juneteenth originated on June 19, 1865, and commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States.

The Tubman Museum in Macon is unveiling a new Juneteenth exhibit, which aims to tell new and unique stories about the history of African Americans in Middle Georgia from slavery to the civil rights era to now.

The exhibit is called "Untold Stories: Macon's African American History" and is on display for thousands of visitors to explore the past.

Jeffrey Bruce is the museum's curator and says that about 95% of the items in the exhibit are from people in the community who have made an impact.

"Holidays like Juneteenth focuses people's attention and minds on people celebrating black history and Black culture," Bruce said.

Bruce says Juneteenth is a time to learn and celebrate.

"There are lots of stories about individuals and organizations and institutions here in town and how they made that transition or helped us as a community make that transition from slavery to freedom through Jim Crow all the way to Civil Rights," Bruce said.

Amongst one of those stories to tell is Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice. Dr. Montgomery Rice grew up in Macon, graduated from Southwest High School in 1979, earned her engineering degree from Georgia Tech, and a medical degree from Harvard.

"I think about Juneteenth as an opportunity to think about where we've been but more importantly where we are going," Dr. Montgomery Rice said. "Juneteenth has some importance to countless of us who have descended from persons who were in bondage. What you think about what those individuals go through to get us to where we are today, their stories can only motivate you and inspire you and remind you of the long journey our people have been on."

She finished her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine. Now, Dr. Montgomery Rice is the President and CEO of Morehouse School of Medicine.

Her white coat and other memorabilia are on display in the Tubman Museum, and she says she is happy to be part of the history.

"I am learning about myself as others are learning about me because clearly if you continue to be open and receptive and listen to learn, you will always learn from others," Dr. Montgomery Rice said. "If one young person comes through that museum and sees my story, I hope they are inspired by their untapped potential."

Judge William C. Randall, another Macon native, also has historic articles on display at the Tubman.

There was a special preview reception Tuesday evening and the exhibit will be open to the public on Wednesday, June 19.

There will be reenactors in the galleries throughout the day, free of charge.