The Birmingham Museum honored Juneteenth by displaying an exhibit banner at City Hall.

The Birmingham Museum honored Juneteenth by displaying an exhibit banner at City Hall.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Birmingham displays Juneteenth banner at City Hall

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 20, 2023


BIRMINGHAM — Throughout June, the Birmingham Museum has been honoring Juneteenth by displaying a special exhibit banner at City Hall.

While there is no event scheduled for Juneteenth planned by the museum, Birmingham Museum Director Leslie Pielack said they use the whole month of June to recognize the holiday. This year, they are doing this through the exhibit banner.

Located on the main level of City Hall, the banner is outside the elevator for people to see as soon as they walk in.

“It has really captured the attention of both staff members and building visitors,” Communications Director Marianne Gamboa said.

This banner displays the faces of important people in the Underground Railroad movement in Birmingham, including abolitionist Elijah Fish and formerly enslaved residents George and Eliza Taylor.

The Birmingham Museum worked with an artist who used watercolors to paint a sketch of the Taylors that dates back to 1898.

“The watercolor just gives them a lot of life and helps bring them into the room to the viewer,” Pielack said.

In addition to the visual element, there is also a written portion to give people a better understanding of who each individual is on the banner. A QR code is available for people to scan to learn more information about Birmingham’s Underground Railroad connections.

Pielack said the reason that they are featuring Fish and the Taylors is twofold.

“One is because they are both at the historic Greenwood Cemetery, and we want to call people’s attention to that,” Pielack said. “Secondly, they each represent the two sides of the anti-slavery movement.”

The two sides of the movement Pielack is referring to are Fish’s role as an abolitionist, which helped abolish slavery by forming policy, and organizing and creating anti-slavery societies; and the Taylors who escaped enslavement.

“We just want to encourage the community to stop by this month and view the exhibit and learn more about Birmingham’s history,” Gamboa said.

Juneteenth has been a federal holiday since 2021, but it has been celebrated by some for much longer. The holiday celebrates the proclamation of freedom for enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865.

While this is the Birmingham Museum’s most formal recognition of the holiday, in past years they have placed floral arrangements on the Taylors’ graves to help people know where they are located.

This exhibit banner is the first of many portable exhibits that the Birmingham Museum hopes to do.

“It is a very portable, very easy and very user-friendly kind of display that can be very creative and help call attention to specific information,” Pielack said. “It is easy to put up, it is easy to move, and it fits in lots of different environments.”

While there are no additional details at this time, Pielack said that it is the museum’s intention to continue to carry out this kind of resource to the community.