River Road African American Museum


This project is a permanent exhibit telling the story of the GU272—those enslaved and trafficked through a slave purchase between Georgetown University, Governor Henry Johnson, and Dr. Jesse Beatty of Donaldsonville, Louisiana—their life stories, and life stories of their descendants. The exhibit will be both virtual and on-site at the Episcopal Church of Ascension (ECA), which is a church that was co-founded and built on land formerly owned by Gov. Johnson. The building is currently owned by a former board member of the River Road African American Museum (RRAAM). The building still stands on the same grounds today in Donaldsonville.

The project will involve qualitative research using both primary and secondary research of documents, photos, genealogies, and interviews with descendants; curation, design, and creation of virtual exhibits will be presented through the RRAAM’s website and an on-site exhibit at the ECA. Educational programming will engage the historians, the descendant community of Ascension Parish, students, and the public.

Although many of the enslaved people were resold and redistributed to other parishes and regions after 1838, the GU272 are part of the history and legacy of Donaldsonville and Ascension Parish. Today, the people of Donaldsonville face modern-day challenges involving environmental justice, health-care disparities, and low-wage jobs.

It is important not only to remember the history of slavery in the region, but also to honor the descendants of the enslaved in Ascension Parish. Slavery affected these communities socially and economically, but American enslavement and trafficking of people disrupted family ties globally. For many, those family ties have never been restored. This project will help preserve the legacy of the formerly enslaved. This project will educate the community about the history of the region and address lingering issues that affect the community today. The resources provided at the genealogical programs will help participants of all ages learn more about their ancestry and heritage from a local perspective.

Principal Investigators

Kathe Hambrick

Consultant, River Road African American Museum

Kathe Hambrick is an independent consultant, museum curator, public historian, author, and public speaker. In April of 2021, she founded a consultant agency, Kathe Hambrick LLC and 2PRESERVE. In addition to exhibit design, she provides guidance in program development, museum governance and management, organizational development, interpretative planning, and training. Additionally, she consults in the areas of historic preservation of slavery-era grave sites and exhibit interpretation to include descendant community participation previously omitted. Throughout her 30-year career as a museum professional, she has curated nearly 100 exhibits. An expert on rural Louisiana, she has been interviewed by local, national, and international media. Experienced in community relations and skilled in collaboration, she also consults with corporations, museums, governmental agencies, faith-based organizations, and community leaders. She is affiliated with numerous museums and historical associations and served as the president of the Association of African American Museums in 2009. She is the author and co-author of several books: Juke Joint Men, about 14 blues musicians from Louisiana’s sugarcane plantation region, Oh Say Can You See: Flag Paintings of Malaika Favorite, and Our Roots Run Deep, which highlights the history of the River Road African American Museum. She also authored a curriculum guide, Freedom’s Journey: Understanding the Underground Railroad in South Louisiana. Hambrick teaches Introduction to Museology at Southern University in New Orleans.

Karran Royal

Historian, Independent Contractor

Karran Royal is an accomplished genealogist, family historian, consultant and public speaker. She is the founder of Descendants of the Jesuit Enslavement online community. She hosts and facilitates a weekly Zoom call with descendants of Jesuit enslavement. In 2016 she became the co-host of Nurturing Our Roots, a genealogy talk show. She is the former executive director and founding board member of the GU272 Descendants Association.

Erin Diamond

Administrator, Independent Contractor

Erin Diamond is a researcher, educator, and quality improvement professional based in Washington, DC. Originally from Baton Rouge and a long line of Louisianans, Erin has researched her family genealogy at parish courthouses, state archives, and national archives to identify her formerly enslaved ancestors. Erin holds a BA in Spanish, an MA in anthropology of development and social transformation, and an MPP in program evaluation. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Mandarin and teaches African American studies in Washington, DC Public Charter Schools.