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.

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