Friday, June 19, 2009

Community History Internship update

This week, from up here in Concord, Massachusetts, I've continued to 'co-supervise' at long distance the six community history interns down in Covington, Georgia, while Forrest Sawyer has been doing the on-site supervision. I'm really pleased at how quickly the interns have learned their way around the wiki of the African American Historical Association of Newton County--they've been updating news links and putting in historical materials on sports (including African-American women's sports in the county history). Guided by Mr. Bob Halcums and Ms. Jane Williams at the Newton County Public Library, they've been pursuing genealogical research on their own kin in the County. Yesterday, they mapped out the gravesites in the historically African-American section of the Covington City Cemetery, which date back to the late 1800s; they evidently uncovered one Masonic headstone, marked with the distinctive Masonic chains. Today, the plan is for them to map the more recent Westside cemetery on the other side of Covington.

Ellen and I are driving down to Georgia this weekend and I'll get a chance to start working with the youth on Monday. I'm pretty sure we'll concentrate on video and multimedia projects. We'll start on brief YouTube videos on the two Covington cemeteries, and perhaps include the Oxford cemetery as well. Ideally, older community members will be able to take some walks through the cemteries sharing their memories of those who are laid to rest there, and reflecting on the history of segregation in these sites. I expect the interns will video some walks with civil rights movement veterans through the Covington square, as they recall the days of struggle.

We'll also try to do some digitial slide shows on local family history, incorporating old family photographs and archival documents to tell various kinds of stories about local history and memory. We might pay a visit to Monroe and the Moore's Ford bridge site to document some of the forms of continuing 'memory work' in reference to the July 1946 mass lynching, in which four persons were killed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Community History Interns in Georgia: African American Public History

This week, we've started up a new Community History Internship program in Newton County, Georgia. This is a partnership between the African-American Historical Association of Newton County and the Washington Street Community Center in Covington, Georgia. The program is supported by Federal stimulus funds. Six African-American teens in Newton County are employed this summer as community history interns; they've just made "Self-Introduction" pages on the wiki.

The interns are being supervised by me, Deacon Forrest Sawyer, Jr (president of the Historical Association) and Mr. Flemmie Pitts, a civic leader active in the Community Center. Emogene Williams( a retired educator who is one of the local community's leading historians) and Pastor Avis Williams are also advising and helping out in various ways.

Throughout the summer the teens will be enhancing and expanding the Association's wiki, developing links to news story on African-American heritage as well as its various sections on slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movements, and African-American artistic, musical and cultural accomplishments. We're very pleased that thanks to Covington Mayor Kim Carter several important deed books of the Covington African-American cemeteries, dating back to the 1890s, have just come to light: the young people will be mapping and documenting the cemeteries (in the Covington City Cemetery and the Westside cemetery) and tracing the stories of those who are buried there. Perhaps we'll be able to develop a brochure walking guide to the two cemeteries. There's also interest in documenting the early history of African-American schools in the area, including Washington Street School (The photograph above shows third grade teachers Ms. Eva Wright and Ms. Sarah Hardeman with their students, along with Professor Nathaniel Mitchell.)

We'll have to see what ideas the interns have for upcoming projects. It would be interesting to develop some sort of children's book on local African-American history for instance. Perhaps we'll do some sort of multimedia project, involving our new YouTube channel, documenting historical story-telling in the County.

At this point, I've only met the young people over the telephone; they sound terrific. I really look forward to meeting them in person next week when I visit Covington and we can begin the oral history, video, and archival components of the project.