African-American Achievers of Hall County: Audio series spotlights African-Americans of note in our community.
Black History Month events
‘Black is Beautiful!’ art exhibit
Where: Inman Perk Cafe, 102 Washington St., Gainesville; Northeast Georgia History Center, Brenau University, 322 Academy St., Gainesville; Newtown Florist Club, 1064 Desota St., Gainesville
Let’s Travel Back in Time: Gainesville Hall County African-American Heroes
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 12
Where: Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University
How much: $3
Tours of Newtown Florist Club
What: Visitors can tour community garden, historic site and exhibition of civil rights memorabilia and continuing social and environmental action
When: 1 p.m. Feb. 24 (tentative date)
Where: Newtown Florist Club, 1064 Desota St., Gainesville
How much: free
Black History Month double feature family program
Where: Listen at Brenau University public radio WBCX 89.1-FM
When: 8 to 9 a.m. Feb. 23
If you keep your eyes and ears open this month, you’re sure to learn something new about Hall County’s past.
During February, several area organizations will do their part to keep the area’s black history in the hearts and minds of the community.
“There is a lot of history that people don’t know,” said Rojene Bailey, volunteer executive director of the Beulah Rucker Museum in Gainesville. “Not just black history or white history ... there is a lot of history, especially in towns like Gainesville.”
The museum has partnered with Brenau University’s public radio station, 89.1-FM WBCX, to air 90-second vignettes each day of the month. The audio clips highlight an African-American achiever from Hall County. The clips will also be available on The Times’ website.
Bailey said the program ran once before in 2010. He said he was surprised by how well the community received it.
While the clips helped to educate the community about the past, it also helped local historians learn what parts of history people have forgotten.
“We found out what people don’t know about certain situations in Gainesville,” Bailey said.
Bailey said in researching the project, he, too, learned about some interesting individuals in Gainesville’s past.
“One thing that fascinated me was a gentleman by the name of George Smith,” Bailey said. “In 1920, he loaned the city of Gainesville $10,000 so the city wouldn’t go broke. Whoa, that’s kinda cool.”
Bailey is the grandson of Beulah Rucker Oliver, an African-American educator who was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement Hall of Fame in 2012. She is only the second Gainesville woman to receive that honor.
Oliver founded the Industrial School on Athens Highway in Gainesville, which served students from 1914 to 1958.
Students learned the usual lessons of mathematics, reading and writing but also commercial skills like carpentry and hat-making. The museum now is housed in the former school house.
Bailey said it’s important for the community, regardless of race, to remember its shared history.
“There are a lot us, especially adults who just assume that people know what we know,” Bailey said. “But you’ve got to understand that a 20-year-old kid might not know.”
Organizations like the Newtown Florist Club in Gainesville make it a point to educate young people about the area’s cultural heritage. Executive Director Faye Bush said the club’s summer program does a lot to expose the younger generations to the past.
She said it’s important for young people to understand history, “so that they’ll be aware of how it was and what we had to go through and what we’re still going through.”
Marianne Scott, has volunteered as an art teacher for the club’s summer program for years. She said it was Newtown’s unique and upsetting history drew her to get involved.
“Newtown has such an interesting story,” Scott said. “The tornado of ’36 blew away most of the African-American neighborhood and they were relocated to Newtown, on the site of the former city dump.”
The pollution in the area caused many of the neighborhood’s residents to become sick.
The Newtown Florist Club began more than 60 years ago by collecting flowers and donating wreaths for funerals. It since has grown to be a strong advocate for social justice in Gainesville.
Anyone interested in learning more about Newtown’s history can visit the club at 1064 Desota St. in Gainesville.
At 1 p.m. Feb. 24, families can visit the club and tour community gardens, historical sites and see an exhibition of memorabilia from the civil rights movement.
Families will have the opportunity to learn together at a storytelling program sponsored by the club at the Northeast Georgia History Center at 7 p.m. Feb. 12.
Several local artists are participating in the “Black is Beautiful!” art exhibit. Portraits of African-Americans will be on display at locations around town. Portraits can be viewed at The Newtown Florist Club, Northeast Georgia History Center and Inman Perk Cafe on the square in downtown Gainesville.
Scott said having the artists’ work displayed at the different locations will serve as a way to unite the community.
“It’ll be a nice bridge from different parts of the community to venture out to Newtown,” Scott said. “And then to have a little mixing up in our community that is a little too divided. People can venture out to one side of town to another and vice versa.”