Professor‚ students recover and document a forgotten history

Very few outside of the Summer Hill community‚ a historically African−American neighborhood in Cartersville‚ knew of its rich and storied past – until now‚ that is.

Georgia (Dec 29, 2005)
Very few outside of the Summer Hill community‚ a historically African−American neighborhood in Cartersville‚ knew of its rich and storied past – until now‚ that is.

Since January 2003‚ Dr. LeeAnn Lands and students in the public history program have been working on a project to document and interpret this community’s history‚ resulting in the creation of the Summer Hill Museum and a documentary premiering on public television in February.

“This is a social justice issue‚” Lands said. “There were no African−American monuments or institutions about black history in Bartow County. This museum documents an underrepresented community and increases understanding of class and race in American society.”

Lands and her students partnered with former and current residents of Summer Hill‚ the Summer Hill Foundation and the Etowah Area Consolidated Housing Authority‚ which initiated the project. It has been largely funded by a grant from the Anheuser−Busch Foundation.

Lands and former student Melissa Massey served as co−curators of the museum and coordinated the interviews and research for the film. The documentary‚ shot by filmmaker David Duke‚ is a permanent part of the museum‚ which opened in June.

“This project changed students’ understanding of different communities‚” Lands said. “It opened doors and introduced new ideas.”

During a racially divided time‚ Summer Hill‚ which formed just outside of downtown Cartersville in the late 1800s‚ thrived and became the business center for African−Americans in Cartersville. Generation after generation lived in this community‚ with many leaving for a college education and then returning to live in Summer Hill.

To preserve this past‚ Massey‚ public history students‚ private contractors and student assistants recorded and transcribed 41 oral histories; collected artifacts and documents for the museum‚ such as maps‚ tax records‚ deeds and school board records; and shot‚ digitized and indexed more than 200 photographs. The foundation has so far acquired more than 40 collections of documents‚ photographs and artifacts.

In addition to her other duties‚ Massey developed educational materials and program proposals for the foundation‚ including curriculum guides based on the museum exhibit.

“This is truly an effort in which teaching‚ scholarship‚ and service become one‚” Dr. Howard Shealy‚ chair of the history and philosophy department‚ said. “I cannot think of a better example of service to a community than enabling that community to assert its identity by preserving its past. The project allows the public to see us as a community of teachers and students who are willing to put our knowledge to work for the greater good.”




 

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