Telling the black story

Web site de­tails black ex­pe­ri­ence in New­ton County

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Rachel Oswald

For many years the nar­ra­tive of New­ton County’s his­tory has been pre­dom­i­nately the ac­counts of white res­i­dents while many of the sto­ries and mem­o­ries of black res­i­dents have not been told pub­licly.

Rec­og­niz­ing the un­even con­tri­bu­tions to the his­tor­i­cal land­scape of the county, one lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to doc­u­ment­ing and cel­e­brat­ing the black his­tory and cul­tural her­itage of New­ton County has stepped up to the plate.

Last week the African-Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion of New­ton County launched a col­lab­o­ra­tive Web site, http://afro-new­ton. wik­

“Ab­so­lutely ev­ery­body is in­vited to con­trib­ute text and ac­counts,” said Bran­deis Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor of An­thro­pol­ogy Mark Aus­lan­der who serves as one of the or­ga­ni­za­tions’ aca­demic ad­vis­ers.

“It’s just a won­der­ful way for bring­ing to­gether the whole com­mu­nity. There’s such a deep com­mit­ment to un­cov­er­ing th­ese long ne­glected sto­ries. The study of th­ese as­pects of the county’s his­tory is a won­der­ful way to build com­mu­nity,” said Aus­lan­der, whose in­volve­ment with the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­gan when he was an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Ox­ford Col­lege.

The new Web site cov­ers a broad spec­trum of the his­tory of black res­i­dents in New­ton County with a time line, a list of his­toric sites in the county and en­tries for schools, ath­let­ics, churches, ceme­ter­ies, slav­ery, share­crop­ping and the civil rights move­ment.

But mem­bers of the African-Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion are quick to point out that there is still more to be added to the wiki, sto­ries and mem­o­ries that can only be learned through the con­tri­bu­tions of the pub­lic to the site.

“We just don’t want to be a group of se­niors sit­ting around talk­ing about what was and what used to be,” said For­rest Sawyer Jr., one of the county’s lead­ing civil rights ac­tivists who to­gether with his wife, Sharon, helped to found the his­tor­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tion and now serves as its pres­i­dent. “We want to be on the move, spread­ing the rich his­tory of the county, both the African-Amer­i­can his­tory and oth­ers.”

While any­one is free to con­trib­ute to the wiki, For­rest said. Com­ments and ar­ti­cles are read and edited by mem­bers of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s board of direc­tors be­fore they are posted to the site.

Al­ready the site is filled with a wealth of knowl­edge, which un­til now was not widely known by the pub­lic at large such as the fact that in 1967 at the R.L. Cousins High School Home­com­ing game, the all-black foot­ball team scored a huge win of 1020, a vic­tory that is still un­ri­valed in Ge­or­gia high school foot­ball his­tory to­day.

Much to be learned

For younger gen­er­a­tions in New­ton County born af­ter the civil rights move­ment, it’s easy to take in­te­gra­tion for granted. While the era of Jim Crow is taught in schools, for those who never lived through it, fully com­pre­hend­ing just what seg­re­ga­tion meant to a so­ci­ety can be dif­fi­cult.

Emo­gene Wil­liams, an ad­viser to the as­so­ci­a­tion, who at 76-years-old is one of the old­est res­i­dents in Cov­ing­ton and has

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Look­ing back: Cov­ing­ton na­tive Emo­gene Wil­liams rem­i­nis­cences about her ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences in Cov­ing­ton be­fore de­seg­re­ga­tion of the school sys­tems as she flips through a vin­tage Frye’s Higher ge­og­ra­phy text book used to ed­u­cate black stu­dents who at­tended Wash­ing­ton Street School.

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