Savannah’s Vaughnette Goode-Walker, AKA Sista V, is a teacher, a journalist, an historian, an author, and a poet. For 10 years, Goode-Walker has been educating locals and visitors with her insightful walking tours, Footprints of Savannah, which focus on the slave trade, cotton trade, and urban slavery in Savannah.
"My walk follows the footpaths of Africans from slavery to freedom," said Goode-Walker.
Goode-Walker is the co-author of two books about Civil War-era Savannah including "Brokers, Bankers and Bay Lane: Inside the Slave Trade" and shares her vast knowledge of Savannah history with her popular tours.
"My tour is called footprints because I look at the footprints of the buildings where things happened," Goode-Walker continued, citing the lanes of pathways urban people used in front of the old courthouse on Wright Square as an example. "You can tell that story, I mean it’s great when you can be there in person, but you can also do it virtually through pictures. The history is already in the mind of the person who is with you. I’m not a storyteller, I’m a history teller."
Goode-Walker had to stop doing her walking tours in the wake of the pandemic, with several months worth of bookings swept away, but she has been able to adapt her tour for Zoom, and is ready to engage with people about Savannah history again.
As a 30-year veteran of radio and television broadcasting, Goode-Walker felt comfortable with the transition to virtual tours.
"I’ll tell you something the old gospel singers used to say. I don’t attempt anything, I just do it," said Goode-Walker with a laugh. "I’m loving this virtual thing because it’s digital. It’s part of my old world and my new world mixing together."
The idea to switch to digital formed when Goode-Walker, who had been giving a tour for a hidden history class at the Savannah College of Art and Design for several years, offered to do a virtual tour for the online class. The students enjoyed it and gave good reviews.
Since January, Goode-Walker had also been posting one minute conversations that occurred after her tours on the Footprints of Savannah Facebook page and realized that using a digital platform was a good way to reach people.
"Doing them online has revived that excitement for me," said Goode-Walker. "I was looking at doing a Footpaths of Savannah podcast and I went through all my old tour scripts. I counted the pages and I had 275 pages from over 10 years of tours that I created."
Goode-Walker attributes her wealth of local knowledge to Whittington Johnson, author of "Black Savannah," whom she met years ago. Johnson, in Obi Wan Kenobi mentor-mode, gave Goode-Walker 13 questions about Savannah to study, and she often goes back to them to sharpen her history skills.
"When you’ve answered these questions, Grasshopper, you will know the history," Goode-Walker playfully recalled Johnson saying.
Goode-Walker hopes to pick up her walking tours again soon, but in the meantime, you can contact her at footprintsofsavannah.com to set up a Zoom tour.
"I engage my guests, every tour is different, so even with these virtual tours it’s not by rote," Goode-Walker explained. "It is the feeling of how the conversation goes, they can stop me in the middle of it and ask questions, and we go from there. That’s the same thing I want to project when I talk to people on a Zoom platform."
"I do these tours for education. I’m not really trying to make a living off of this. I enjoy the work that I do and people are interested in our city and history."