5 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in Morgan County
It goes without saying that African Americans have shaped life in the United States for centuries. Georgia is no exception. In fact, it is often considered the home of the American civil rights movement due to the many key events that took place here and can now be experienced by traversing the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trail.
This Black History Month, we invite you to dive deeper into the stories and histories of Madison and Morgan County, Georgia with five of our favorite experiences.
1. Tour Rose Cottage
This charming cottage was built in 1891 in west Madison near the Georgia Railroad right of way. While the cottage is charming as can be, the real significance of this home has to do with the intriguing African American woman who not only lived in it but built it with earnings from her own business.
Her name was Adeline Rose and she was born in September of 1864 to enslaved parents.
The mother of at least four children, Adeline’s husband died leaving her to support her family by taking in laundry at fifty cents a load. For a time, she did the washing and ironing for boarders at the Hardy House, owned by the mother of the famous comedic actor, Oliver Hardy. She earned enough with her laundry business to have the cottage built from the ground-up, even investing in beautiful windows and other adornments unusual for working-class homes of the times.
Adeline Rose passed away in 1959 after living in the home for 68 years.
In 1966, the City of Madison moved Rose Cottage to its present location in downtown Madison next door to Rogers House, another historic house museum, and the Morgan County Courthouse.
Thanks to the preservation of this cottage, Ms. Rose’s legacy and her home, built out of a labor of love, is available for touring.
2. Experience the Morgan County African-American Museum
Located in the heart of Madison’s historic district, the Morgan County African-American Museum’s mission is to research, collect, educate, and preserve the history and art of African American culture.
The museum operates out of what was the tenant house of John Wesley Moore, an African American man born in the last years of slavery. The house John lived in with his wife and four children was on land owned by a white farmer, James Fannin. On October 31, 1899, Fannin deeded Moore forty-one acres of land “for five dollars in consideration of the service he has given me.”
After Moore died in 1908, his widow, Dora Gordon, inherited this land and other property. She lived in this house until her death in 1932.
In 1989, this simple Folk Victorian home was moved from the Moore farm, two miles south of town, to its current location where it was restored for the use of today’s museum. The Museum was founded as a non-profit organization by Fred Perriman, now mayor for the City of Madison, and Martin L. Bass.
3. Behold "Brotherhood of Man" at the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art
The Steffen Thomas Museum of Art is one of only fourteen single-artist museums in the United States. German-born sculptor and painter Steffen Thomas (1906-1990) achieved “Master” status from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. At the age of 22, he immigrated to the United States and continued his craft.
Thomas did not condone the unequal treatment of people based on race and gender that he witnessed in the South. Rather, the artist believed in the dignity of all mankind. Thomas dedicated his life and art to challenging racial views and those of gender. One piece on permanent display in the gallery is a painting of the Tennessee Garbage Workers Strike, which led to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thomas lived by the motto engraved both on his Monument to the Brotherhood of Man as well as the urn he made for himself in the years before his death: “This world is too small for less than brotherhood, too dangerous for less than truth.” For more information on the museum and exhibits, click here.
4. Walk through Madison Historic Cemeteries
The Madison Historic Cemeteries are actually comprised of four distinct cemeteries. Some of the older sections include segregated burial grounds with historic markers offering information on this history. Yet, in a section of graves for Confederate soldiers, there are three headstones for “Colored Hospital Attendants.” These attendants likely worked in one of the four official Confederate Hospitals that operated in Madison during the Civil War. Initially buried on a section of private property across the railroad tracks, they were moved in 1881 when property for the New Cemetery was bought.
However, not everyone received a headstone. In the 1990s, the City of Madison cleared brush from a hillside in the Old Cemetery and discovered numerous unmarked graves. These burials are thought to be for African Americans who were enslaved.
Embark on the self-guided walking tour established by the Cemetery Stewardship Commission to discover these locations and the resting place of Adeline Rose.
Brochures are available at the Academy Street entrance to the Madison Historic Cemeteries and at the Welcome Center.
5. Learn More with the Madison-Morgan Heritage Experience
In celebration of the City of Madison’s 200th birthday (2009), historical markers were erected at local heritage sites by the Madison Bicentennial Committee.
Journey on a Black History Tour through downtown Madison to discover important places marked with Bicentennial Heritage Markers. Each marker shares a deeper understanding into what these locales mean not only to the local Black community, but also in the lens of U.S. history making its mark here in Madison and Morgan County, Georgia.
One stop on the Black History Tour is the site of Clarke’s Chapel Baptist Church where a marker tells of the Freedmen’s Bureau and more history of education among the Black community in Madison. The Freedmen’s Bureau, established by Congress to help former enslaved people in the South after the Civil War, was active in Madison and formed the first school for African Americans in the county.
The Madison-Morgan Heritage Experience Guides are available for free at the Welcome Center.
Sharing these stories and histories is a way to help those who have passed live on. Thank you for diving deeper this Black History Month.