Georgia is home to many museums and sites honoring the lives and legacies of African American men and women who devoted their lives to the fight for equality and justice. Although some might be under the radar, they are certainly worth exploring. Read on to learn more about sites to visit and the people behind them.
James Brown — The Godfather of Soul
James Brown was a musical powerhouse who doesn’t fall under the “lesser known” category. However, many people might not be familiar with the museum that honors him.
Brown left his imprint on the music community when he busted in with the sounds, moves and soul like many had never seen. He also left a lasting impression on what he considered his hometown of Augusta, Georgia. The city continues to celebrate and embrace the soul he left behind.
Brown grew up in Augusta during the Great Depression and World War II. He overcame poverty and segregation to become an international music icon. Throughout his life, he made many civic, educational and philanthropic contributions that provided hope and opportunity to those in need.
Here are a few ways Augusta and the community celebrate James Brown:
The James Brown Exhibit at The Augusta Museum of History Augusta
The museum houses the first and most comprehensive major exhibition dedicated to The Godfather of Soul. Museum director Nancy Glaser and Mr. Brown’s daughter, Deanna Brown Thomas, worked together to tell the story of the man, his music and his legacy through an interactive, visual and musically driven exhibit. Plans to expand this popular exhibit are in the works.
Snap a photo with James Brown
The life-size bronze statue of Mr. Brown contains the world’s only James Brown CAM which will take your photo and send it to your cell phone within minutes. Find the statue on Broad Street, between James Brown Boulevard and 8th Street.
Experience the only African American museum in Augusta’s River Region. This museum, which opened in 1991, was the former home of Miss Lucy Craft Laney.
In his most famous speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The difference between a dreamer and a visionary is that a dreamer has his eyes closed and a visionary has his eyes open.” With this distinction in mind, it would appropriate to declare Ms. Lucy Craft Laney one of the premier visionaries in Augusta’s history.
She was a woman who kept her great mind and kind heart open to the world around her, identifying needs within her community and answering them to the best of her ability throughout her lifetime.
The museum is tucked away on a quiet side street off of Laney Walker Boulevard and across the street from Lucy Craft Laney High School. It’s a trove of knowledge, historical lessons and community offerings, carrying on the storied legacy of Ms. Laney for this generation and beyond.
Lucy Craft Laney was born in 1854 to two freed slaves. She grew up during a time where many people viewed her and her family as far less than equal. When she was born, it was still illegal for people of color to read. Also, for the first 11 years of her life, slavery was legal. None of this deterred either Laney, who seemed thirsty for knowledge at a young age, or her parents, who believed strongly in education.
Laney attended Atlanta University at just 15 years of age. She studied to become a teacher and exceeded the already high expectations her friends and family members held for her. She went on to teach in Macon, Milledgeville and Savannah, making impactful contributions in each community while inspiring both teachers and students alike. Eventually, she settled in Augusta, where she fulfilled her lifelong dream of opening a school with the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute where she served as principal for 50 years. She also opened the first black kindergarten, as well as the first black nursing school in Augusta, cementing her status as one of the most influential educators in all of Augusta’s history.
Flat Rock is believed to be one of the oldest African American communities in Georgia. The community was founded and strengthened by individuals who wanted to ensure the safety and success of African Americans following the aftermath of the Civil War. Flat Rock thrived in part because of the immense communal bond of its citizens, as well as the selflessness of its leaders. Theodore A. Bryant, Sr., ensured the development of Flat Rock by purchasing nearby land and distributing it to families in the area. Despite consistent animosity and prejudice, the people of Flat Rock remained strong, resilient, and united.
This exhibit explores the story of Flat Rock as well as the people who called it home. By examining objects collected over time from the residents of Flat Rock, we have been able to better narrate the lives and experiences of the families within the community. This exhibit would not have been possible if not for the generosity of Flat Rock Archives, who graciously lent part of their collection and all of their expertise to allow us to tell the inspiring story of the community who stood strong for over one hundred years. The exhibit runs until February 2021.
This old-school style boxing gym is where four-time world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield trained and learned the “sweet science.”. In fact, his son, Evan Holyfield, currently trains here for the Olympics.
“There’s so much history here that it was really the only place I considered,” says Evan Holyfield. “The best trainers in the world are here.” The legendary boxing gym with two rings has been producing champions since its inception in 1976. The gym is named for a city councilman, and it’s operated by “Sugar Bert” Wells, who got his moniker from training with Sugar Ray Leonard.
“We have boxers as young as five years old,” Wells says. What sets it apart? “Other gyms treat you like clients,” says Myles Mizell, who will represent Georgia in the Golden Gloves. “But here they treat you like family — a tough family.”
All classes are open to the public. Just sign up and activate your training mode.