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.

Remembering Susie Wheeler

Between 1917 and 1932, some 5,000 lovingly designed and constructed Rosenwald Schools were built for rural African American children throughout the South. They constituted a network of educational training camps in which minds were fed and nourished against the dark backdrop of legalized segregation. As such, they helped to lay the groundwork for the civil rights movement.

But the Rosenwald Schools were only physical forms and shapes. To animate the education that took place in them required hundreds of dedicated teachers who devoted their lives and careers to the inspiration and transformation of the children in their charge. To name them all could fill several columns, but to honor them all, let us remember the grand story of Dr. Susie Wheeler—an authentic Georgia hero.

Bearing witness: the Rosenwald Schools

By 1917 the Reconstruction that was to have secured freedom and equal opportunity for 4 and a half million former slaves in the South had vanished. In its place was the vision of a “New South” that promised commercial success for the crippled region and profit aplenty for Northern industry.

Marring that vision, however, was the Jim Crow system built upon the legal separation of the races that was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson. By the second decade of the 20th century, most of the region remained an agriculture-dominated society that suffered from economic, educational, and cultural poverty and deprivation.

The poorest of the poor were African Americans who lived in the country, for whom the dream of freedom was virtually extinguished. Public education in the South was generally lacking for everyone, including most whites, but the minimalist support for rural black schools (where they even existed) was appalling.

A civic dream: Oglethorpe and the founding of the Georgia colony

Hidden in Georgia clay, floating in Georgia air, are stories that have the power to tell us who we are, where we’ve come, and maybe even where we’re headed. These are what I call “civic stories” — stories about building new kinds of communities.

Such stories can be thought of as dreams, as civic dreams, and even if they lack a happy ending, civic dreams can’t really die. They usually carry some message for us to decipher. When this message is revealed, civic dreams can become guides and even inspirations. They can help us take the measure of the present in our long journey of learning how to live together.

Georgia’s rural churches

Passing through rural towns and countryside, drivers come across unmistakable beacons of another time. They represent glad tidings, plain beauty, and sacred space. They are the ground of memory, where words once uttered inside their walls hang like invisible curtains. They are spiritual mountains, despite their modest presentation — aging, mostly one-room structures graced by the simple lines of clapboard siding, shingles, pitched tin roofs, colored glass, and modest bell towers.

Lillian Smith: The artist as activist

The arts are entertaining, educational, invigorating. The arts are part of life, though we may not all agree on what constitute “the arts.” I am inclined to put music, drama, literature, stories, poetry, and so forth into “the arts” category. Of course, categorization has its own challenges. Shakespeare’s plays are theatrical, and also proper subjects of deep scholarly inquiry by experts in literature and history, areas of study sometimes described as “the humanities.”

Education for all seasons

We have grown accustomed to seeing front-page news concerning K-12 public education in Georgia and its progress (or lack of progress), but some of us may wonder what is prompting all the attention. Is the public school system “broken?” Are we falling farther behind the rest of the nation, and the world, in our educational “race to the top?”

Education has always been on our national mind. One of the very first legislative acts produced by our young national government was the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The ordinance’s most astonishing provision involved education. Free public schools, which previously existed only in New England, were mandated in every township of the new territory.

The Roots of Georgia Roots Music

Georgia’s musical influence looms large, extending far beyond its borders. The examples are legendary, including Johnny Mercer, Ray Charles, Brenda Lee, James Brown, Otis Redding. What is the nature of this place that nurtures such powerful roots?

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an annual event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., used the term roots music in the early 1970s to describe “folk” or “old-time” music that combined singing with acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle and accordion.

The Making of a Southerner

Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin’s heritage extends back to Georgia’s antebellum planter elite, and includes a governor, judge, state supreme court justice, and founder of the University of Georgia Law School (not to mention a county named in honor of her family).

The Lumpkins also contributed sons to the Confederacy’s war effort, and like their planter neighbors, experienced the war’s aftermath as a personal and economic catastrophe.

Radical Southern women – Part 1: Eliza Frances Andrews

Two spirited Georgia women of the post-Civil War era are remarkable for the clarity of their voices, their roots in the state, and their achievements. If in some ways they are alike, they are also profoundly different.

Eliza Frances (“Fanny”) Andrews was born in 1840 in Wilkes County; Kathryn Du Pre Lumpkin was born in 1897 in neighboring Oglethorpe County. Each benefited from the prominence of their families.

“The Heart of the Matter”: Why we need the humanities

The urge to examine and understand is what Socrates recognized as intuitively human, and worthy of encouragement. For self-examination is a confirmation that we are living and breathing and thinking beings. And that’s the great conversation that the arts and humanities invite us into.

We in Georgia are engaged in a national conversation on the value of the arts and humanities. One of the leaders in this dialogue is Wayne Clough, the former head of Georgia Tech and now the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Secession of another kind

The steps leading up to the nation’s disunion in 1861 were many. If we are looking for one of the significant cracks between North and South that foreshadowed the irreconcilable chasm to come, we might look no further than the tiny community of Oxford, Georgia, about 35 miles southeast of Atlanta.

Bishop James Osgood Andrew, one of the first residents of Oxford, was a Methodist minister who practiced in South Carolina and North Carolina, and in the Augusta and Savannah circuits. In 1832, as a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, he was elected as a bishop.

Before the Flood: Alexander H. Stephens and Abraham Lincoln

“We are passing through one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world.”

With the Confederacy barely a month old, so began Alexander H. Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, in a speech in Savannah. This sesquicentennial season of the Civil War gives us an opportunity to explore the most devastating event in American history and one of the deadliest of all civil wars: more than 600,000 combatants died, leaving no American household untouched.

The Actress and the Planter: A Lesser-Known Civil War Story

Pierce Mease Butler and Fanny Kemble had a tempestuous marriage and divorce, the effects of which passed on to their children and grandchildren — not unlike the separate regions of the nation where they lived.

Fanny Kemble was a brilliant Shakespearean actress and prolific writer, born to a London family famous for its performances before kings and queens.

Ships Passing? Aaron Burr, Jefferson Davis and George Washington in Ga.

Aaron Burr, Jefferson Davis, George Washington. Each man who passed through Georgia was following his own destiny; each was a traitor to those who held power and who had the resources to punish him.

Aaron Burr, prior to his election as vice president of the United States under Thomas Jefferson, had compiled an impressive record. Many considered him a brilliant lawyer as well as an able and strikingly handsome politician. And during the Revolutionary War he had distinguished himself for bravery and leadership.

How Georgia gave birth to the CDC and helped fight malaria (Part 2)

It was Coca-Cola that first brought Robert Woodruff and President Eisenhower together in World War II, through the morale-boosting campaign to put a Coke in the hands of all military service personnel.

After the war, “Ike” enjoyed hunting quail at Ichauway Plantation as Woodruff’s guest. Thus, with Congress still intransigent, it was time for a personal intervention.

How Georgia gave birth to the CDC and helped fight malaria (Part 1)

Today’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deep roots in Georgia, not the least of which were the Depression-era efforts of a handful of medical practitioners, a university, and a philanthropist whose support made their work possible.

Next time you drive by the CDC, consider this: What does that imposing complex in the middle of metro Atlanta have to do with a tiny, remote county in southwest Georgia?

FDR — the face of the New Deal in Ga

When the Great Depression hit Georgia in the late 1920s, most of its population barely noticed, given that the state's own economy still suffered from the ruin of the Civil War.

Sharecropping had become a way of life for many farmers, black and white. In addition to poverty and the plague of pellagra, there were also massive agricultural impediments due to large-scale land erosion, resulting from long-standing poor farming practices.

How Georgia armed the nation

When we think of Cobb County today, a variety of impressions come to mind. Historically, its development is inseparable from the state’s as a whole. Yet we may not, however, associate Cobb County with a leading role in nuclear weapons delivery and cold war.

Traditions in clay: John Burrison — the molding of a scholar’s career

What is the value of a liberal arts education today? Academics — especially in the humanities — are often the objects of public criticism, if not dismissal, because of the “irrelevance” of their work. How does a college student majoring in, say, history or literature find a job after graduation? One scholar’s career, however, can help us recast this question of relevance.