December 15, 2010
10-208

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Professors Endorse Historical Markers to Honor Minorities

 

VALDOSTA -- History professors at Valdosta State University have been integral to the establishment of several Civil War historical markers throughout Georgia. These markers -- from labor strikes in Augusta to food riot in Columbus -- were dedicated during a 2010 storytelling campaign as part of Georgia’s Civil War Sesquicentennial.

Dr. David Williams, author of “Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War,” and fellow history professor, Dr. Chris Meyers, published articles about events that unfolded during and in response to the war. Their research helped the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) and Department of Economic Development identify the following markers to honor previously unrepresented elements of the war:

Rincon -- March to the Sea: Ebenezer Creek
Augusta -- Accidents and Strikes at Powder Works factory
Columbus -- Women’s Food Riots
Milledgeville -- Secession Convention
Dalton -- African-American Soldiers in Combat
Quitman -- Slave Conspiracy
Jasper -- Unionists in Georgia
Atlanta -- The Battles for Atlanta
Savannah -- Sherman's Special Field Orders No. 15

Williams spoke at a November dedication ceremony in Quitman about the importance of providing the public with a full spectrum of the war’s players and impact. The Quitman marker speaks of the execution of a local white man and three slaves after their conviction to conspire to overtake the town’s government on behalf of U.S. Army forces based in Florida.

“A couple of years ago, I was in Savannah for a radio interview with Stan Deaton of the Georgia Historical Society. After the interview, he mentioned that some of the events I mentioned would make great markers,” Williams said. “During the dedication, I just gave a little background, expanded on possible motives (which are still murky), and pointed people to ‘Plain Folks in a Rich Man’s War’ for further reading. The book contains pretty much the sum of what little we know about the conspiracy.”

A 2008 study of Georgia’s 919 historical markers revealed that 15 percent of them were missing or damaged. To reinvigorate interest and pride in state history, the GHS developed the Civil War 150 Project’s Storytelling Campaign. The revealing of each new marker included a ceremony that featured a speaker and music reflecting the tone of the marker. The campaign began on May 25 near Rincon’s Ebenezer Creek, where the society erected a marker to honor the fugitive slaves who drowned while following the Union Army during its March to the Sea.

The society’s web site, www.georgiahistory.com, provides a list of all the markers and GPS coordinates so that travelers can design personalized driving routes. By infusing history, tourism and online tools, the GHS hopes the Civil War 150 Project will encourage Georgians to promote the region’s rich past.

For more information about VSU’s part in the development of these historical markers, e-mail Dr. David Williams at david.williams@valdosta.edu.