Telling the black story
Web site details black experience in Newton County
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. wikispaces.com.
“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
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.