‘TIME’ Features Research Conducted by Klibanoff and Students for ‘Buried Truths’ Podcast

TIME recently featured historical research conducted by the Emory team behind the “Buried Truths” podcast. Season three of the podcast, which is led by James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism Hank Klibanoff and comprised of Emory undergraduate students, focused on the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The researchers identified various direct descendants of Arbery, including an enslaved local leader in agriculture and environmental engineering, Bilali Mohammed, through census research. Read an excerpt from the TIME piece below along with the full article: “What Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Has Meant for the Place Where He Lived.”

In the 1700s, some of Watts and Arbery’s shared ancestors arrived in the region in a group of enslaved families brought to Sapelo Island to cultivate rice, cotton and indigo to enrich their white slaveholders. On his father’s side, Arbery was also the direct descendant of Bilali Mohammed, an enslaved man originally from West Africa brought to the island after first being enslaved in the Caribbean, according to the team of students behind Atlanta Public Radio’s Buried Truths podcast. The students, lead by Hank Klibanoff, director and co-teacher of the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory University, were able to confirm that lineage by hunting through Census and other records after a detailed tip shared by Barger, something of a local-history buff. Mohammed—whose slaveholder represented Georgia in the U.S. Congress—was an important source of African agricultural and engineering techniques befitting a climate where rice will grow; that knowledge was key to making Brunswick a prosperous center of economic and cultural activity. Mohammed left behind a 13-page Arabic-language manuscript that is today in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript collection at the University of Georgia.