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A documentary on the history of Jim Crow Road is about to release. Here’s how to watch
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A sign marks Jim Crow Road in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

In 2015, Leah Michelle Long’s husband bought a lake house in Flowery Branch before she’d had a chance to scope out the area for herself. When they moved in, one detail stood out to the documentary filmmaker like a sore thumb: their new home’s proximity to Jim Crow Road.

Familiar with the history and connotation behind the name, Long began working to uncover the backstory of the road, soon discovering it was named not for the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation, but for Glennon “Jim” Crow, a local White resident who owned property along its path and helped Black and White neighbors alike in the early 1930s.

Her findings were documented in a 90-minute documentary entitled “Jim Crow Rd.,” which releases for public viewing Friday, Oct. 1. 

“I had to look into that and figure out what the story was behind that — it’s been something that’s been a part of my existence in Georgia from the beginning,” Long said, noting that though she’s since relocated to Germany, she still has strong ties to the area.

Starting Oct. 1, viewers will be able to find the documentary under the “Documentary Film” playlist on Long’s YouTube channel, Leah Michelle Long.

An hourlong academic version of the film is also available with an accompanying curriculum designed for schools and universities, which can be provided free of charge upon request.

Recently, the documentary was selected for on-campus screening at the Morehouse College Human Rights Film Festival in Atlanta among nearly 60 others “promoting conversations that challenge perspectives and focus on issues concerning humanity.”

For Long, one of the highlights of creating the film was gaining a better understanding of residents’ varied perspectives on Jim Crow Road.

“(The name of the road) had nothing to do with any racial issues, it was that they were trying to honor a person that was in their community that they had known for many years,” Long said. “Other people that were new to the area were bothered by the name of the road and got a sense from either the city or the county that it was assigned to keep certain people out of that community. It was very eye-opening for me to just sit and listen, which I don’t think we do enough in today’s society — allow everyone to have a voice and to speak their concerns and their perspectives.”

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G.C. Crow and family. Photo Courtesy Randy Crow

By sifting through road commissioner records, Long discovered Jim Crow Road was renamed from Old Federal Road sometime between April 1960 and July 1962. Though she couldn’t find any record of why the name was changed, Long said some of the residents she spoke with feel it was an “underlying innuendo.”

“It’s very difficult for some people to believe that that road was named Jim Crow Road without an understanding of what that name had come to represent in our society,” Long said. “But then again, Flowery Branch has been in its own isolated bubble for so long that when a group of people come up with an idea and think it’s a good idea and have no reason to question it or think otherwise — it’s definitely kept the debate going. It’s kept the conversation going for both sides.”

Long noted the road’s history stretches back to the 1800s, when it was controlled by the Cherokee until their forced exodus along the Trail of Tears.

A portion of the road was renamed G.C. Crow Road in 2020 to, per city officials, “clarify its lack of connection to segregationist laws and send a more positive message.”

According to Long, the question she most often fields from viewers pertains to why the documentary doesn’t include more people of color, or members of the Crow family. Many of them, she said, expressed trepidation about voicing their opinions on camera. 

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A worker replaces the Jim Crow Road sign in Flowery Branch with a G.C. Crow Road sign on Sept. 3, 2020.

“I think that they weren’t sure what the project was going to be when I was working on it,” Long reasoned. “Now that it’s done and they can see it, maybe this will get them having thoughts, concerns (and) conversations about it that they’ll want to add to it, which would be my biggest hope. I think there are some voices still missing from this project that could add to it significantly.”

Although none of Crow’s relatives are in the film, Long previously told The Times she was able to get their history through working with Hall County Commissioner Kathy Cooper, who served as a “middle person” between her and the family.

Long hopes the film will spur “a thought-proving exchange of ideas” between its viewers.

“I started this project because I wanted to learn more about the community that I was living in and the origins behind why a road would be named Jim Crow,” Long said. “In the process, I was really enriched by the opportunity to listen and to give others the chance to voice their perspective. To be able to have different opinions on a subject but have a constructive conversation is something that is missing in today’s society. I just hope that my film allows the audience to see all sides of the issue, to have better information regarding the history and be able to continue the conversation that leads people to have a better connection regardless of their differences.”

When asked whether she’d add to the documentary if more members of the Crow family or local Black community would be willing to speak, Long responded without hesitation: “Happily. I’d love to.”

“Their stories and perspectives can still add so much to this project, continuing the conversation and possibly deepening the understanding of why the road was named the way that it was. I was unable to really uncover exactly when it was renamed and why. It’s still a bit of a mystery.”

To connect with Long or request a copy of the academic version of the documentary’s companion curriculum, contact her at leahmlong.ll@gmail.com.