Known to many as the lifestyle expert on ‘Good Day Columbus,’ Rita Fuller-Yates also has a passion for local history. Newly appointed to the Columbus Landmarks Board of Trustees, she has launched a weekly video series exploring often overlooked African American stories.

John T. Ward is a towering figure in Ohio history — but not everyone knows it.

After having been a conductor on the Underground Railroad, he co-founded E.E. Ward Moving & Storage in Columbus in 1881. It is the oldest continuously operating African American-owned company in the country.

On the Statehouse grounds, however, Ward is represented only by a state historical marker.

To historian Rita Fuller-Yates, this is a missed opportunity. In her eyes, Ward should be celebrated with a statue on the lawn.

“I want to see someone who I know has made an impact, and (officials) know has made an impact, and who is still making an impact,” said Fuller-Yates. “If they’re looking for someone who will fit the bill, he is it.”

Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and evening newsletters

It’s a point that the 50-year-old Downtown resident made in front of a Facebook Live audience of more than 100 last week, shooting footage for her “In da Streetz” series of weekly videos on local African American history. Since March, she has been posting the videos for her Columbus Black History Facebook group, which has generated engagement among community members looking to learn and to share stories of their own.

Filmed on a phone and tablet by her husband, Shawn, and friend Vida Williams, Fuller-Yates traversed the Statehouse grounds for Wednesday’s episode. She passed by statues of Christopher Columbus, Union soldiers and President William McKinley, illustrating the lack of African American representation.

Viewers chimed in with comments during the live video, which now has more than 400 views, but Fuller-Yates and her team later interspersed a clip of prerecorded Statehouse history for a final, more polished, 20-minute video.

“As African Americans, we don’t get much history of what we have done in a community,” said Williams, 65, of the West Side. “It’s very important to me to get that information out there so we can feel like we can be proud of our city. I don’t know how I’m going to get this information otherwise. Someone needed to step up, and Rita decided she’s going to be the one.”

>> Want to share your memories of Columbus? Join the “Remember when, Columbus” Facebook group

Recently appointed to the Columbus Landmarks board of trustees, Fuller-Yates has taken a few detours on her route to becoming a historian. Although the Columbus native obtained a bachelor’s degree in history from Ohio University, she had a corporate job for 10 years, founded a janitorial company and earned a master’s degree in interior design from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.

Then she became a lifestyle expert, providing tips for entertaining guests at home. She is regularly invited to contribute to lifestyle segments on WBNS-TV (Channel 10) and WSYX (Channel 6) and on “Good Day Columbus” on WTTE-TV (Channel 28).

But as she began to learn about local history — especially the musical and entrepreneurial roots of her childhood neighborhood on the East Side — she felt drawn to the topic.

For “In da Streetz,” Fuller-Yates has made videos on the history of African Americans in areas such as the Hilltop and Downtown, often talking about buildings that did not survive redlining, urban renewal and gentrification. She filmed one video at the Downtown site of the Litchford Hotel, which was at 90 N. 4th St. and was a much-needed option for African Americans during segregation.

Teaching these subjects is crucial for the preservation of history, said Toni Smith, an adjunct professor of African American history at Columbus State Community College.

“Many of the buildings and sites that are significant for us are being erased,” said Smith, who is working with the Ohio History Connection to transform part of the historic Poindexter Village housing project on the Near East Side into a museum. Fuller-Yates’ “being able to document the existence of these spaces and to highlight their importance is a great gift to the community. So much history has been contributed by African Americans, and without a physical structure, a lot of that story gets lost.”

The community has bolstered Fuller-Yates’ research. When she posted on Facebook about Martha Hartway Lawrence, a former slave who found refuge Downtown at the Kelton House, a high school friend spoke up.

“She said, ‘Hey, that’s my great-grandmother,’” Fuller-Yates said. “She called her mother, and we all sat down and talked, and they had the full story on everything, and it was just unbelievable. That has happened several times. … Black people have legacy here, but they’re not known, and they’re not appreciated.”

Fuller-Yates is also working on what she calls the 20 Twenty 200 Project, an initiative to archive information on past and present African American leaders in Columbus. She also is applying for grants to host African American history tours in the city.

Smith said that Fuller-Yates has the passion and personality needed to make history engaging.

“She’s an excellent person to be doing the work that she’s doing on behalf of not only the African American community, but this city at large,” Smith said. “These are stories that have contributed significantly to the city of Columbus and have often been overlooked in ways that I think diminish the richness of our history.”