North Hall High School students met with an award-winning author Thursday to hear stories about the Civil Rights movement in a rural, isolated south Georgia community.
Macon native and Georgia Writers Hall of Fame author Melissa Fay Greene shared her experiences of researching for “Praying for Sheetrock” with the high school’s Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate students.
“Praying for Sheetrock” describes the racism of McIntosh County on the Georgia coast through the 1970s, long after the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
The material wasn’t met without some controversy in the community, even when the book was printed and published in 1991.
“Even after the book came out, the book was met with great hostility in the white community,” Greene said. “And for years I got letters, and they pretty much all began ‘We’re not saying it didn’t happen, but why do you have to kick a dead horse?’”
Among many stories, the book shares details about Sheriff Tom Poppell, a controversial figure who helped African-Americans register to vote, but then was accused of controlling how they voted so he and his friends would maintain power.
The book got its title from Fanny Palmer, an older woman who relied on the power of prayer to provide Sheetrock when her new home was nearly complete except for the building material.
It’s another story Greene shared in the book.
“It’s about how Miss Fanny was able to move out of the little house that was just falling to pieces,” Greene said. “She needed a new little house to keep her warm but they lacked Sheetrock.”
The North Hall students greeted Greene with artwork they created inspired by the book. Students Brannan Vitek, Tyler Truelove and Gage Fisher performed a musical piece they wrote.
“One of the things that I thought about a lot during this presentation is that one of the most inventive things that human beings have created during our entire history is literature,” senior Dylan Taylor said following Greene’s presentation. “We get to see another vessel of life because we only get our own perspective throughout our own entire existence.”