The heritage of Northwest Georgia is diverse, amazing, and still to be discovered. As you read this blog focusing on the stories of the region’s Black citizens and heritage sites, may your curiosity move you from in front of your screen to an actual visit. You’ll be glad you did.
Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center
Break out the schoolbooks at this black history museum and cultural center housed in the former Noble Hill Rosenwald School. Built in 1923, this was the first school in northwest Georgia constructed with Rosenwald funds. These funds were dedicated specifically to the education of black children. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Please call to confirm hours prior to visit. Closed Sunday and Monday. Handicap Accessible. No admission charged, although donations are accepted. noblehillwheeler.org
Euharlee Covered Bridge and History Museum
This historic covered bridge, which spans Euharlee Creek, was built in 1886 by Washington W. King, son of famed bridge builder and freed slave Horace King, and Jonathan Burke. Visit the nearby history museum at the welcome center for more information about the community’s history including the Black Pioneers Cemetery.
Thomas Dorsey, Father of Gospel
Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, GA, and wrote over 400 blues and gospel songs. His most popular gospel-blues song, written in 1932 after his wife and newborn son died unexpectedly, is Take My Hand, Precious Lord. Mahalia Jackson sang it at Martin Luther King, Jr’s funeral. Dorsey’s second-most-popular song, Peace in the Valley, was recorded by Elvis Presley and sold millions of copies. For a while, any new gospel-blues song was referred to as a “Dorsey” until Dorsey himself coined the name “gospel.” Villa Rica celebrates this iconic legend each year at the Thomas A. Dorsey Festival in June. visitvillarica.com
The Emery Center, site of Dalton’s first public school building, was built in 1886 to address the educational needs of African-American children between the ages of seven and sixteen. The school served the communities of Dalton and surrounding counties. Now preserved as an African-American heritage site, the Emery Center serves as a museum and multicultural center. emerycenter.org/
George Washington Carver Park
As Allatoona Dam was completed in Cartersville in 1950, Governor Talmadge leased shoreline to create Red Top Mountain State Park, and nearby established the first “Georgia State Park for Negroes.” The 345-acre park was named George Washington Carver Park, honoring the renowned Tuskegee Institute botanist and inventor. The park became fondly known as “The Beach.” Well-known entertainers performed at the park including Ray Charles and Little Richard. Carver Park served as the summer home of the St. John’s Ski Bees, the only black water ski club in Georgia and their summer performances attracted blacks from nearby Atlanta and from across the southeast. The Beach is where Mrs. Coretta Scott King spent weekends at church outings, and where Rev. Andrew Young and his family learned to water ski. After segregation ended the park sat empty for years until it reopened in 2017 and is available for day use as an ideal location for reunions, corporate picnics, and other large gatherings. visitcartersvillega.org/gwcp/
Ancestral families who lived at Prater’s Mill have ties to the European, Native American, and African American cultures. Visitors can explore the mill grounds, nature trail and historic buildings during daylight hours every day and during the annual country fair each October. pratersmill.org
The Great-Great-Great Grandmother of First Lady Michelle Obama is buried in Kingston, Georgia. Upon freedom from slavery, Melvinia Shields migrated from Rex, Georgia to be near other freed slave families from her youth. In Kingston, she spent the remainder of her days in the community that knew her as “Mattie” McGruder and cared for generations of its children as a midwife. A memorial marker stands in the cemetery behind Queen City Church. visitcartersvillega.org/gwcp/
Roland Hayes Museum
Roland Hays was born to former slaves near Calhoun, GA, and grew up to be a renowned singer; by the 1920s he had become the highest paid tenor in the world. He sang for royalty and toured Europe several times. His music always included spirituals which he called Aframerican religious folk music. He owned residences in Massachusetts and Curryville, GA, where he grew up on a 600-acre farm. Hayes was inducted to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame posthumously in 1991. Today, visitors can learn more about the remarkable life of Roland Hayes at the museum located inside the Harris Arts Center in downtown Calhoun, GA. harrisartscenter.com/roland-hayes/
In a small community outside of Rome, GA, lies evidence of a once thriving free Black settlement named for the founding Chubb family. Today, most people may recognize one of the family descendants, Nick Chubb who played for the Georgia Bulldogs. In the early days, this family exhibited strength, tenacity and self-sufficiency that led to a flourishing and vibrant town which began during the Civil War. “They came and settled and they were never slaves,” Nick says. The town consisted of a church, post office, school, saw mill, casket company, cotton gin, cemetery, grist mill, syrup mill, wagon company, blacksmith shop, and a lodge and meeting hall. You can visit the cemetery and church today. It’s worth a visit to stand in the very place where this family made their mark in history. dawgnation.com/football/team-news/the-legend-of-nick-chubb-begins-in-chubbtown
Fairview and E.S. Brown School
The Fairview-E.S. Brown Heritage Corporation seeks to preserve the life-affirming African-American cultural experiences of the early 1900s; namely, the Fairview Colored School located in Cave Spring, GA. The campus was erected under the Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington philanthropic building campaign to provide an education for African-Americans. The only remaining structure, the first grade building, once in imminent danger of collapsing, ow stands restored as ongoing site development continues. Preservation plans include a re-created four-acre campus with museum, campsite, organic garden, and multi-purpose buildings to benefit the entire community. fairviewbrown.org
Aunt Martha’s Cottage and Freeman Community at Oak Hill / Martha Berry Museum
“Aunt” Martha Pearl Freeman, the long-time Oak Hill housekeeper, cook, and nanny for Martha Berry, was the younger sister of William Thomas Freeman, an emancipated slave of the post-Civil War era and a skilled blacksmith, who started the Freman Community, which at one time included 550 acres. All of these acres were purchased by Miss Berry in 1926, founder of Berry College. The only remaining evidence of the Freemantown community is the cemetery located northeast of the practice track at the former Berry Academy. berry.edu/oakhill/
Summer Hill Complex
During the segregation era, the small Summer Hill School in Cartersville,
GA, and its surrounding community nurtured four generations of black Americans and produced Georgia’s first black Supreme Court justice (Justice Benham); a famous Motown song-writer (Jackie Beavers); teachers, ministers, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals; and many others who made major contributions to their home town and to the larger society. In this documentary, the remarkable people of Summer Hill tell their story — and share with us their enduring values and philosophy of life. The school has today been restored and serves as a repository of local African American contributions and facility for community gatherings. Film is 24 mins.
Stand at the site of the only Civil War combat in Georgia involving Union African American soldiers against Confederates. In August 1864, the 44th United States Colored Troops (USCT) withstood a Confederate cavalry assault on Fort Hill. Three months later in October the 44th USCT was forced to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds. Interpretive markers at Fort Hill School, where the fort once protected the railroad, provide detail. visitdaltonga.com