Two Athens historic sites will host the second annual event addressing the history of slavery at the University of Georgia this year.
“History of Slavery at the University of Georgia: Tell the Whole Story” will take place Saturday, May 21, from 10 am to 9:15 pm, at the Brooklyn Cemetery and Morton Theatre, with this year’s focus on the Athens community.
“We are excited that this year’s event is community-focused with programming at two important historical locations,” said committee chair Jennifer L. Rice, associate professor of geography at UGA. “Our theme, ‘Tell the Whole Story,’ builds off of last year‘s inaugural symposium to continue to honor the rich histories of Black Athenians and the difficult legacies of slavery still with us today.”
The daylong series of events builds upon and expands work related to a grant that was awarded to an academic team to study the history of slavery at UGA from the institution’s founding in 1785 until the end of the Civil War in 1865. With that work concluded, the committee planned this year’s events because of the urgency of continuing the important work of acknowledging the fullness of Black history in Athens.
“The HSUGA event continues to acknowledge the significant contributions Black Athenians have made since slavery, and the ongoing work by community and campus members to resolve erasures, gaps, and silences in our collective knowledge about slavery,“ said committee member Barbara McCaskill, a professor in the Department of English at UGA. “We look back so that we can move forward.”
All events are free and open to the public, although tickets are required for events at the Morton Theatre and can be reserved at mortontheatre.com.
The day will begin at 10 a.m. at the Clarke Middle School (1235 Baxter Street) entrance to Brooklyn Cemetery. Facilitators and participants will discuss the history of the historic African-American cemetery and people interred there, the national movement to preserve Black cemeteries, and the cemetery’s reinterment project. The visit will also include a tour, storytelling, a video presentation and music. There is free parking at the school and covered seating for the presentation will be available. A Hokulia Shaved Ice Truck will be onsite for refreshment, with proceeds going to the Brooklyn Cemetery.
From there, events will move downtown to the historic Morton Theatre (195 West Washington Street), one of the oldest remaining Black vaudeville theaters in the country. Beginning at 1 p.m., audience members will experience a staged reading of 19th- and 20th-century Black Athens history in civil rights, sports, and education through a selection of archival stories and reports by Black writers. This segment will conclude with a reprise of an act from “Athens Vignettes,” a play that debuted at Town and Gown Players earlier this year.
Following a break at 2:30 p.m., the day’s final events will be a family-friendly cultural program with performances by the Palms of Fire Drum Circle, East Athens Educational Dance Center, rapper and social activist Linqua Franqa, and the jazz instrumental/vocal duo of Xavier O’Connor and Gregory Satterthwaite from 4 to 6 p.m. The program will conclude with an encore screening and panel discussion of “Below Baldwin: How an Expansion Project Unearthed a University’s Legacy of Slavery” beginning at 7 p.m.
Athens artist and descendant Broderick Flanigan, who served on the planning committee this year, said the university and community must understand that there are still ramifications today because of the enslavement of African peoples; this event is one effort to remember not only where we’ve been but where we need to go. “It’s important to understand and work towards redressing the economic implications associated with the exploitation of labor in the slave system and how those implications play out in today’s society with racial disparities in wealth and assets held by Black families vs White families especially in a university town like Athens,” he said.
For more information and to view the schedule, please visit www.slaveryatuga.org. You may also email the organizers: SlaveryatUGA@gmail.com.