A group of people with a thirst to discover their past have met with closed doors, as they say many don’t want to discuss the city’s Black experience.

“We have failed three generations of children,” Lavada Dillard said during the meeting Saturday at the Rome History Center. “We want to gain knowledge and open the vaults of 137 years of history that has been hidden.”

The MLK Legacy and Leadership Academy of Rome met this weekend in the first of many efforts seeking to uncover Black history in the Rome area.

RAHM Archivist Selena Tilly reminded the group that telling the whole story of history is all about research.

“Quit taking what is in our history books as the last word,” Tilly said.

Tilly took the group back to the early days of Rome, offering up history relative to Myrtle Hill and the steamboat era.

Dillard asked if there was evidence of slave trading in the Cotton Block, Tilly said, “it wasn’t for buying and selling (slaves) because it didn’t develop until the 1870’s.”

“We’re still coming through the back doors of history,” Dillard interjected during a historic presentation by Tilly.

Pastor Sidney Ford agreed.

“Certain people know that history but they won’t tell it,” Ford said.

“How are we going to connect with you if we don’t know us?” asked Dillard. “When you look at the hate of yesterday, that hate has risen again.”

Taking personal responsibility for digging into history to reveal family matters that may have been long buried by time is important, participant Sam Malone said.

Documentation is also key. Pastor Gordon Wells encouraged the group to document and make copies of any records they are able to uncover during the search to fill in the blanks of the past.

“History is the foundation of who we are,” Ford said. “Black people played a major role in everything that moved and operated in this country.”

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