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.

Farewell column

A change is coming to our column. At the end of January I will retire from Georgia Humanities after 20 years of service as president, and thus “Jamil’s Georgia” will come to a close. My time with Georgia Humanities has given me strong memories. I have traveled across the state many times, and visited (it seems) almost every community.

A radical southern woman

A shocking act of violence stirred, or “woke,” a sense of justice in her.

Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, a daughter of the post-Civil War South and member of a prominent Georgia family, chose to challenge her society and its beliefs about women and race.

Born 120 years ago this week, Lumpkin could claim a heritage that extended back to Georgia’s antebellum planter elite, and included 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.

The amazing Georgia story of Nick Chubb's family

We live on building blocks created by earlier generations, whatever we may think about our own present-day accomplishments. Unless we know how we got here, we can’t truly appreciate all that we have. Memory imposes a responsibility on the living.

Consider the Georgia story of the Chubb family, the ancestors of a very talented University of Georgia football player who has already earned his own place in the history of college football — Nick Chubb.

From the Great War to the Greatest Generation: Georgia schools and the home front

This week, MIKE SANTROCK, of the Fulton County Schools Archives, tells how military training arrived in Atlanta’s schools.

On the morning of May 23, 1918, superintendent of Fulton County schools J. W. Simmons sat at a desk in a downtown Atlanta courthouse. He, like most other Americans that spring, had been following news from the war front in Europe. It was hard to believe that a country, which had once been so divided over whether or not it should send troops to fight in a European conflict, was now rallying behind the war effort as if democracy itself depended on a victory.

Remembering Sapelo native Cornelia Walker Bailey, a Georgia legend

This week, CHRISTOPHER LAWTON, of the Georgia Virtual History Project, recalls the life and impact of an unusual storyteller and storykeeper, who was a living link with Sapelo Island’s past. Cornelia Walker Bailey of Sapelo Island passed away on October 15, 2017. Her death is a devastating blow to all Georgians concerned with how we tell our story, understand ourselves, and plot our future. Like all of Sapelo’s people, she traced her roots to those who were brought to the island through the slave trade approximately 200 years ago. She was a descendant of Bilali Muhammed, an educated and literate Muslim from the west coast of Africa, and his wife, Phoebe.

Michael Mescon: Georgia's Pied Piper of private enterprise

This week, DAVID MARTIN, former director of the Georgia Council on Economic Education, shares the story of Michael Mescon and his efforts to expand private enterprise education worldwide. Mescon created the first Chair of Private Enterprise at a higher education institution at GSU in 1963. He also created the Georgia State Center for Business and Economic Education (a forerunner of the Georgia Council on Economic Education ) to work with area teachers.

Leadership through service and hope—the Melvin Pender story

This week, LAURA MCCARTY, of Georgia Humanities, tells the story of Olympic sprinter and Vietnam veteran Mel Pender.

To a list of effective leaders in Georgia, I would add Melvin Pender of Kennesaw, whose name may be unknown to many, but whose deeds as a veteran, Olympic champion, and leader in business and civic affairs speak to the best of the American promise and Georgia motto, “wisdom, justice, and moderation.”

Before Hartsfield-Jackson, building bombers transformed the metro area's economy

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.
This story begins with the B-29 Superfortress.
Even before the United States declared war on Japan in 1941, thereby entering World War II, the Boeing Aircraft Company had begun designing a bomber that could meet the challenging requirements of a Pacific war. The Army Air Forces needed a plane that could fly fast at high altitudes and long distances and deliver a large payload. The extraordinary Boeing B-29 provided the solution.

True leaders find victory in a worthy vision, not in a single bold move

Leadership, this greatly admired trait, once commonly applied exclusively to male war heroes or politicians or industrial leaders, is now generally recognized as a gift or skill that also includes women, men, and young people from the highest rungs of the corporate ladder to one’s immediate family. True leadership is the story of success, not for one’s self, but for others.

Sacrifice for freedom: Georgians in Normandy

This week, JASON BUTLER, a teacher at DeKalb Early College Academy, and his student SYDNIE COBB discuss their experience studying D-Day and visiting Normandy, France, as part of the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom® Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute, a program of National History Day. National History Day is a nonprofit educational organization that offers year-long academic programs for junior high and high school students to conduct original research on historical topics. 

By Jason Butler and Sydnie Cobb

Butler: “I have a question about your Normandy Institute application,” the voice on the phone said. “Sure. What is it?” I asked, wondering if my careful proofreading had somehow been lacking. Then the bombshell: “Do you want to go?” she asked. My mind started racing. World War II… D-Day… Washington, D.C… France… Sydnie and I were in! This was December 15, 2016, and I had only a vague idea of what we were in for.

Slavery's sacred spaces

This week, author LESLIE STAINTON discusses the opportunities for growth and reflection that come from confronting physical reminders of slavery. 

By Leslie Stainton

Last year, on my way to a conference, I stopped by Georgia’s Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, between Brunswick and Darien. The property, a state historic site, includes both a plantation “big house” and a slave cabin still quaintly (and to my mind inexplicably) labeled “servant quarters.” I’d spent the night in this cabin the previous spring as part of Joe McGill’s Slave Dwelling Project. My ancestors were slaveholders in the Brunswick area, and the overnight was a chance to honor the hundreds of people whose labor and talents my family had exploited. A penance, if you will.

"The Harvest," a new documentary about the failure of integration, by Doug Blackmon

This week ALLISON HUTTON, of Georgia Humanities, discusses Douglas Blackmon’s new documentary, The Harvest, the subject of an upcoming conversation at the Atlanta University Center.

By Allison Hutton

On Thursday, September 28, 2017, at 5:30 p.m., Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Blackmon and Rose Scott, WABE’s host of “A Closer Look,” along with special guest Lonnie King, a civil rights activist who was involved in the Atlanta student movement, will be at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library for a sneak peak and discussion of  Blackmon’s new documentary film, The Harvest, which will debut in late 2018.

Picturing justice

This week, PAULA LAWTON BEVINGTON, of Atlanta Legal Aid, discusses Atlanta Legal Aid’s Picturing Justice 2017 exhibition and the power of photography to evoke empathy. 

By Paula Lawton Bevington

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  By the reckoning of that well-worn adage, Atlanta Legal Aid’s decision to mount a photography exhibit last autumn spoke volumes.

GPB premieres the landmark documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

This week, Mandy Wilson, of Georgia Public Broadcasting, offers a preview of The Vietnam War, the highly anticipated new documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

By Mandy Wilson

Mandy Wilson
Ken Burns has been hailed as one of the most influential documentary filmmakers of all time, turning millions of people onto history with films like Baseball, Jazz, and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.
In fact, the late historian and presidential biographer Stephen Ambrose said of his films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.”

The mill industry and its workers created modern Georgia

By Jamil Zainaldin

Who were the men, women, and children whose labor in the cotton mills powered the creation of modern Georgia? For the most part mill workers were poor, uneducated, and white. (Few blacks worked in the segregated mills until after World War II.)

Mill hands migrated from the countryside’s sharecropping and tenant farming families, as did laborers who struggled to scratch a living from a land that was still trying to recover from a devastating war.

Mill work was rough and not infrequently dangerous. The average day began with the factory morning whistle. Shifts typically ran 10 to 12 hours, and the workweek six days. The high-end hourly rate for men in 1928 was 25 cents, and as low as 10 to 15 cents for women and children. To survive, most of the family worked: women and children generally could be found in the spinning rooms, while men handled the carding and weaving. When God said he needed the seventh day for rest, the millworker understood why.

Saving the world, one book at a time

This week guest contributor DIANE CAPRIOLA, co-owner of Little Shop of Stories, discusses children’s literature at the AJC Decatur Book Festival.

By Diane Capriola

I always like to say that children’s books will save the world.

Children’s books not only help young readers to feel heard and empowered by seeing themselves in a story; they also allow children to hear and empower others by understanding and considering another’s story.

The slave dwelling project

This week, we’re sharing an important column from 2014 about the Slave Dwelling Project, which shares the stories of extant slave cabins and the experiences of those who occupied them.

By Jamil Zainaldin

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.

The story of the peach is the story of us

This week, ALLISON HUTTON, of Georgia Humanities, uses the story of the peach to examine a period in Georgia when what the state would become was far from certain.

By Allison Hutton

Blueberry Street. The Pecan Road Race. The Broiler Bowl. The Peanut State.

These names, honoring the agricultural industries in which Georgia ranks first (according to data compiled in 2014), may be more accurate, but “peach” has a certain ring to it that’s hard to replicate. And why would we want to?

The peach and its ascendancy to Georgia’s favorite and most famous stone fruit helps tell an important story of Georgia: who lived here, who worked here, and how we became who we are today.

When going back to school meant something different

This week, ALLISON HUTTON, of Georgia Humanities, reflects on going back to school — and the period when that meant returning to a school for members of one race only. 

By Allison Hutton

If you are a parent, or just someone who loves the scent of “bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils,” the start of the school may have you engrossed in thoughts of routines and obligations: homework, carpools, class schedules. It’s worth remembering, however, that so many of the things we now take for granted — where we go to school, who we sit with, and when we go — were different only a generation or two ago.