Jamil’s Georgia

Jamil Zainaldin, president of the Georgia Humanities Council, is a wonderful storyteller who will share tales of our state’s past and connect them to our present.

Proud to be an American

Though Veterans Day is past, our appreciation for those in uniform is never far from mind. Our remembrance extends back in time, too, across the generations. For many, remembrance is inseparable from patriotism.

Ask most people what patriotism is, and they will say loyalty to one’s country or native land. They will also point to a willingness to defend it. This is a good-enough definition. But American patriotism is something more than a defense of the homeland. Continue reading

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The slave dwelling project

The 21st-century idea of sleeping in a slave cabin from the antebellum era is at first challenging to the mind and the memory. What’s the point? Who would choose to do this? But this is exactly what Joseph McGill Jr., the founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, does.

Most slave cabins are now “gone with the wind,” although a number of them still exist, some modestly preserved and used for new purposes, some in ramshackle condition.
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The view from Brasstown Bald

Eleven of Georgia’s 159 counties are tucked in the northeast corner of the state, where the history and culture of the land is inseparable from the mountains. There, the Appalachian mountain chain and the trail by the same name begin their long journey northward to Maine.

From atop Georgia’s highest point, Brasstown Bald, the eye looks out on the intersection of four states, with their tree-covered cliffs, knobs, creeks, and rivers, as well as the ever-present vultures tracing lazy circles in the sky.
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R-e-s-p-e-c-t — what August Wilson earns

Love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. We know these as essences of life. They are also at the heart of the stories told in the poetry and plays of the great, late August Wilson (1945-2005).

He won two Pulitzer Prizes for drama, and among his best-known works are Fences, The Piano Lesson, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Set largely in the black working-class community of his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his plays commemorate the individuality of his characters, and in so doing bridge the differences among races to create a mutual recognition.
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‘Sweet Tea and Southern Breezes': Our archives and heritage

October is Georgia Archives Month, an occasion for commemorating the importance of preserving and documenting Georgia’s as well as the nation’s history.

The 2014 theme of Georgia Archives Month, “Sweet Tea and Southern Breezes,” sponsored by the Society of Georgia Archivists, evokes “the memories of friendship and community documented in archival collections across the state.” Continue reading

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Georgia’s beauty all around us — a trip to Cave Spring

About 75 miles from downtown Atlanta and about 12 miles south of Rome is one of the most beautiful settings anywhere: Cave Spring. Taking its name from an aquifer that surfaces through a limestone cave, this town of about 1,200 sits in beautiful Vann’s Valley of Floyd County in north Georgia.

The community was settled in the late 1820s as migrants from Augusta encroached on land still occupied by the Cherokee. Drawn by the gold rush of 1829 but also by the fertile valleys, early residents showed themselves to be industrious settlers whose priorities of learning, productivity, worship, and service would shape future generations.
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Victory over despair — the power of art to heal the powerful

Without a doubt, Winston Churchill is one of the most important political figures of the 20th century — or of any time. A man who withstood ostracism after the disastrous Gallipoli campaign of World War I and who entered a “political wilderness” (again) in the 1930s owing to his controversial positions on English monetary and colonial policies, Churchill emerged in 1940 as the British prime minister who rallied the hearts, minds, and determination of his people in the war against Hitler’s Germany.

It is important to recognize that when Churchill came to power, the Third Reich was already dominant in the European continent and North Africa (Hitler’s fascist ally, Benito Mussolini, held power in Italy). The United States, with an isolationist movement picking up strength at home, was wary of any outright military involvement. Nazism, truly, was taking on the shape of an unstoppable force.
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Heart, mind, and eye — the art of Lamar Dodd

“Georgia on my mind” —  that would be an apt description for the art of the great Georgia artist Lamar Dodd, born September 22, 1909. According to New Georgia Encyclopedia author and Dodd biographer William U. Eiland, a reviewer of a 1932 New York exhibition of Dodd’s watercolors and oil paintings described his work as having “not one scene of the Scottish moors with their purple heather. . . . Not one scene of the fountains of Rome! . . . Nothing of Paris or London or Athens or Pompeii. But Georgia, Georgia, Georgia.” The critic was hailing this new “regional” American spirit of Dodd’s with both delight and relief.

Like other great Georgia artists (Johnny Mercer, Ray Charles, Benny Andrews, Flannery O’Connor), Dodd took much of his inspiration from his home state of Georgia, but unlike those greats, his name is not always as well remembered. It deserves to be. Continue reading

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An awakening in Tifton: An old photograph of child mill workers inspired one man to search for clues about a forgotten past

In March of this year, about 100 people came together in Tifton, Georgia, from all parts of the state and the country to commemorate the memory of a lost, invisible past that was now found. Not long before, most had no idea of their connection to it.

The occasion was a special event convened by the Georgia Museum of Agriculture. The centerpiece was an exhibition on child labor in Georgia in the early 20th century, the mills who employed children, and the story of a single family: that of Catherine Young. To understand why this story is so remarkable to all who attended the event, we need go a back a century in time.
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Waffle House #786

Neighbors Joe Rogers and Tom Forkner opened their first Waffle House in Avondale Estates, in DeKalb County, in 1955. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the restaurant featured its namesake — of course, the waffle — as well as eggs, grits, hashbrowns (a specialty), burgers, and T-bone steak. Initially restricted to the Deep South, Waffle House today operates in 25 states and is America’s second-largest family-style restaurant (after Denny’s). With its “retro-style dining room where customers can watch their food being prepared,” writes journalist Chris Starr, “the look and quality of the restaurant has never really changed.”

That’s the official story from the New Georgia Encyclopedia. The unofficial story is the one every regular customer knows in his or her own way, which is why that yellow sign is a southern icon.
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