Former Elkhart residents to host Freedom Festival

    The 19th annual Suggs Freedom Festival will take place Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4 in Vandalia, Michigan.

    Posted on July 30, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 30, 2013 at 4:47 p.m.

    A festival this weekend in Vandalia, Mich., will celebrate the rich history of the Suggs family.

    Martha Suggs Spencer and Toka Suggs Quayim, formerly of Elkhart, Ind., but now of Vandalia and South Bend, Ind., have spent the last 30 years researching and preserving their family’s history.

    Their father, James Douglas Suggs, was a well-known folklorist and storyteller from Vandalia. Before his death in 1955, he spent hours sharing his folk tales with Richard Dorson, a professor from Indiana University.

    Spencer and Quayim discovered the interview tapes years after Suggs’ death. They began researching their father and family roots, eventually displaying their discoveries in a museum they run in Vandalia.

    The annual Suggs Freedom Festival welcomes community members to embrace the history of the Suggs family and encourages racial harmony.

    The 19th annual festival will include outdoor activities, gospel concerts, food and museum tours. In past years, more than 300 people have attended, Quayim said.

    The museum grounds will be open beginning at 10 a.m., with the festival events running all day on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3-4.

    The museum includes an abundance of articles and pictures on Suggs, a former slave. The center also displays information on the town’s role as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

    The James Suggs Underground Railroad Museum is located at 60354 Main St., Vandalia, Mich. Proceeds from the event will benefit the James Suggs Foundation.

    For more information contact Martha Suggs Spencer at 574-232-1631 or 574-360-1106.

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