From Savannah to congress

I AM SAVANNAH SMART

From Savannah to congress

Honor your past. Then learn from it. Dr. Felicia Bell ’98 has dedicated her career to public history—to preserving the past so that future generations will be able to learn from it.

It started with tapping into her own roots at Savannah State. Dr. Bell, who hadn’t had much exposure to her culture as a kid, wanted to experience her heritage at a historically black university. She chose SSU, and graduated with her B.A. in history. Afterward, Dr. Bell went on to earn her master’s degree in historic preservation from SCAD and then her Ph.D. in U.S. history at Howard University. Along the way, she worked for Savannah’s Coastal Heritage Society and testified in front of Congress about the role of enslaved craftsmen who built the U.S. Capitol.

Then she returned to her alma mater, Savannah State, as an assistant professor of history. This time around, it was to share her experience with students and expose them to cultural trials and triumphs.

Dr. Bell introduced new courses on public history. Helped students land internships at some of Savannah’s coolest historical sites—including Fort Pulaski and the Georgia State Railroad Museum. And took students to the Old Slave Mart Museum and to Drayton Hall Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina.

For many, it was their first time setting foot on a plantation or walking inside a slave cabin. Dr. Bell remembers the stunned silence.

“Students have breakthroughs when they’re exposed to history. In those moments, you know they’re learning,” she says.

Today, Dr. Bell is the director of Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, which educates the public about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement. In her new role, Dr. Bell wants to make the museum a forum that sparks conversations on race and civil rights. And gives the past the power to make a better future. Seriously Impressive.


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