Class of 2024 History Day
We kicked off our first day of Leadership Augusta with History Day lead by Augusta University historians, Dr. Lee Ann Caldwell and Dr. John Hayes. To say they are incredible would just not be enough. We all stood in awe of the extensive knowledge they have of Augusta, GA dating back to the Colonial Era and although many of us are not originally from the area, those that were born and raised here learned a great deal as well.
Dr. Caldwell and Dr. Hayes lead us through an activity to test our baseline knowledge of the history of Augusta, and let’s just say that was a very humbling experience for most of us! Our tour began with the Colonial Era through The Revolution at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, where we learned Augusta was founded as a trading post in 1736; the fur and skin trade was the economic base; this region was the site of the French and Indian War, the Civil War between the Loyalists and Patriots, the 1st and 2nd Battles of Augusta; and finally, that the Colonial Parishes became the counties we know today, St. Paul’s Parish became Richmond County.
We boarded our bus and stopped at the Cotton Exchange and warehouses, and then toured Springfield Baptist Church and found ourselves fascinated by the artifacts that had been preserved for all this time. Our next stop were the King, Sibley and Harrisburg Mills and then on to Augusta College Summerville Campus, which was the former site of the US Arsenal. Each of these locations provided so much history of the Early National and Antebellum Eras, most notably; between 1786 and 1795 Augusta was the capital of Georgia and where the Constitution was ratified in 1788. This time period transformed Augusta into a commercial center and military center with the founding of the Arsenal in 1819; invention of the cotton gin in 1793; founding of medical college in 1821; development of the railroad systems in 1833; and the Augusta Canal in the early 1840’s. We ended this segment at the Augusta Canal Interpretive Center with a really cool video about the forming and the expansion of the Augusta Canal.
Lunchtime was a treat and not because we got Mellow Mushroom, but because we were honored to learn about the civic and economic importance of public history and historic preservation from: Bennish Brown, Destination Augusta; Nancy Glaser, Augusta Museum of History; Erick Montgomery, Historic Augusta, Inc.; Corey Rogers, Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and Jack Weinstein, Augusta Jewish Museum. WOW! The wisdom of this panel provided some motivation to this Class of 2024 to educate our circles on not just the significance of our history, but the role we all play in preserving it so generations beyond us have the same benefit.
After lunch, we boarded the bus once again and our journey continued through the New South Era. Dr. Caldwell and Dr. Hayes described the growth and modernization of the Augusta region beginning in 1872 with the expansion of the Augusta Canal and ending in the 1930’s with the Great Depression and New Deal in Augusta. Between those two events so many more defining moments transpired, some of which included: growth of the textile industry; development of the African American institutions; Spanish American War; founding and incorporation of North Augusta by James u. Jackson; beginning of Aviation in Augusta with Wright Brothers Flying School; the Augusta Flood of 1908 and 1912 and then the devastating Augusta fire in 1916 followed by World War I at Camp Hancock.
The period of 1940-1972 brought another World War, economic transformation and civil rights movements that lead to desegregation in the 1960s and ‘70s. Although desegregation brought change to congregating in public spaces and voting rights to black citizens, it sadly was not adopted by many white citizens and the despicable racial injustice continued. As we sat in the pews of Tabernacle Baptist Church, Dr. Hayes shared with us the stories of these injustices, noting the murder of Charles Oatman leading to mass rebellion and ultimately the Augusta Riots in 1970.
We ended our day at The Pinnacle Club where we all had the opportunity to reflect upon the day and what resonated with us the most. We went around the room and people shared their thoughts, but what was special about this exercise was that a few allowed themselves to be vulnerable and it was met with such deep respect and understanding from the entire room. That Is exactly what the Class of 2024 embodies: trust and respect and we owe that to our class chairs: Stephen King and Al Dallas.
Until next time,
Leadership Augusta Class of 2024