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.

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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Communities need civic education and involvement in order to thrive. The State YMCA leads the way

Modern education reform is part of a national effort to promote student achievement. A thoroughly modern idea, it grew in response to the 1950s Cold War race between the United States and the Soviet Union for worldwide technology dominance. If one could point to a symbol of that era, probably it would be the 1957 launch of the satellite “Sputnik,” a threatening image in the American mind.

Indeed Sputnik not only launched a space race but changed forever how we talk about education. Certainly the space race unlocked the U.S. treasury in pursuit of new national priorities. And near the top of this list was education — at every level.
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The surrender of Atlanta — a Civil War story of universal significance

In 2014 the city is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta. Certainly most of us are familiar with the devastation that Sherman visited on Atlanta and the surrounding area in his campaign to deal a lasting blow to the Confederacy.

Less familiar, and almost entirely unknown until recent years, thanks to the work of the late University of Georgia historian Thomas G. Dyer (see Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta), are the circumstances of the city’s surrender and the composition of the surrender delegation.
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The Georgia roots of one of 20th century’s most successful songwriters

By Laura McCarty, vice president of the Georgia Humanities Council. She is a guest columnist for “Jamil’s Georgia” this week.

Music- and film-making are thriving businesses in Georgia now, but Georgia native Johnny Mercer — writer of such memorable songs as “Glow-Worm” and “Jeepers Creepers,” which were wildly popular in their day — successfully blended both during his long career.

A recent book by New Georgia Encyclopedia author Glenn T. Eskew, Johnny Mercer: Southern Songwriter for the World (published by the University of Georgia Press), explores the life and global legacy of Mercer — one of the most prolific, successful, and popular songwriters of the 20th century.
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