Many stories finally getting told
lived her whole life in the city, can still clearly remember what life was like for black residents in the county in the day’s of sharecropping and Jim Crow. Williams recalls attending school at the all-black Washington Street School where school children would share together old dilapidated textbooks handed down to them from the white schools.
“These are things that young blacks need to be educated about,” said Williams, a teacher retired from Ficquett Elementary School and the great granddaughter of the Rev. Toney Baker who founded the first black church in the county — Bethlehem Baptist Church.
According to Sawyer, Williams has been a great asset to the organization, filling in gaps of knowledge and helping to edit the Web site’s content.
Williams said she hopes the association can educate the children of the county who wouldn’t otherwise have a parent figure present in their lives to teach them about their heritage and history.
“Children now don’t have anybody,” Williams said. “They don’t have a figure that they can look up to and that worries me.”
For Sawyer, the contributions from young people in the community will be instrumental in carrying on the mission of the African-American Historical Association.
“We didn’t record our history years ago,” said Sawyer. “We are in a position now to record our history.”
Word has already gotten out about the new site said Sawyer, adding that he has been very gratified to have been contacted by so many members of the community, both black and white, who are interested in joining the association and contributing to its mission.
“It’s going to be an asset, not only to the African-American community but to the entire Covington, Newton County, Mansfield, Oxford, Newborn, Porterdale community,” said Sawyer of the Web site.
While the historical association is still finding its feet (the organization expects to receive its 501(c) 3 certification in the coming weeks), additional projects are in the works said Sawyer. Future endeavors of the organization include the development of books, pamphlets, newsletters, exhibitions, driving and walking tours, historical markers and electronic media broadcasts to further the dissemination of information about black history and culture in the county.
The African-American Historical Association encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in researching and sharing their knowledge of black history with the organization.
The organization also seeks to work closely with local educators to teach the county’s youth about black heritage and to sponsor conferences, workshops and community conversations about black history, heritage and genealogy in the county.
As part of the African-American Historical Association’s work, Sawyer said he is working to bring community leaders and educators onto his weekly hourlong radio show “Thy Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper,” which airs at 3 p.m. on Sundays on radio station 1430 WGFS AM, Covington.