African-American heritage is such an important part of Liberty County’s history. These four historic sites provide insight to the lives of African-American ancestors who arrived as slaves, gained their freedom, and then fought for civil rights. Photographers Tammy Lee Bradley of Visit the South and Ralph Daniel captured these soulful photos that will inspire you to visit and experience this culture that has uniquely shaped our community.
Dorchester Academy & Museum of African-American History
Location: 8787 E. Oglethorpe Highway in Midway
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11am-2pm and Saturday & Sunday 2pm-4pm
Admission: No Fee, Donations Welcome
The former school, which was founded by the American Missionary Society soon after the Civil War to educate African-Americans, operated until 1940 and then became a cooperative to help area residents with farming, economic and household issues.
Museum docent Maurice Bacon enjoys telling the history of Dorchester Academy and the people who made the arduous journey from slavery to the fight for education and equal rights.
A diploma from 1940 serves as a testament to the many students who received their education and graduated from Dorchester Academy. Many were so eager to learn, they walked nine miles one way to the school. The annual Walk to Dorchester is held each June as a fundraiser for the site, and retraces the average distance students walked.
Dorchester Academy’s most recent historical role was as a site for civil rights activities. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. planned his campaign to integrate Birmingham during meetings there in the mid-1960’s. The room where he stayed has been preserved and is available to view.
Location: 660 Trade Hill Road in Midway
Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 10:30am-1pm
Admission: Group tours are highly recommended. Call for scheduling & rates
Seabrook Village was a community established through federal land grants made possible by Gen. William T. Sherman’s Field Order 15 in 1865, a policy that came to be known as “40 acres and a mule.”
The village, which features eight turn-of-the-century buildings, is dedicated to the authentic portrayal of rural African-American culture from 1865-1930.
The interactive historic site includes a one-room schoolhouse and visitors and groups may schedule demonstrations of meal grinding, hand-hewn furniture and washing clothes on a scrub board.
At the one-room schoolhouse, lessons in reading, writing and ‘rithmatic were taught to the tune of a hickory stick. Today, the schoolhouse holds the history of those who struggled and strove to gain an education.
Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center & Museum
Location: 622 Ways Temple Road in Riceboro
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm
Admission: No fee for general admission. Donations accepted. Group tours and special requests will incur a fee. Call for details.
Geechee Kunda is located on lands where the rice, cotton and indigo producing Retreat Plantation once stood. The center was created as a means of contributing to efforts to preserve and perpetuate the knowledge of important African cultural elements in the United States.
A sugar cane grinder stands ready and is put to use each fall during the annual Sugar Cane Harvest. The public is invited to attend and are treated to fresh sugar cane juice, performances, music, oral history lessons and arts and crafts demonstrations.
In addition to permanent and rotating exhibits, the center’s year-round activities include classes, workshops, demonstrations and lectures covering a broad spectrum of subjects that allow visitors to explore various aspects of continental and diaspora African culture.
If you have the occasion to take a meal at Geechee Kunda, you’re in for a treat. Arrangements must be made in advance of course, but foodies will enjoy a home-cooked meal with fresh seafood, shellfish along with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Historic Baptismal Trail
Location: 8808 E. B. Cooper Highway in Riceboro
Hours: Currently closed for repairs, but scheduled to reopen in March. Call for details.
Contact: City of Riceboro at 912-884-2986
Admission: No Fee. Tours are self-guided.
For almost 100 years this site was an active holy place where the ancestors of the local Geechee communities baptized new members into their faith.
The site features a boardwalk, benches and picnic tables as well as interpretive signage regarding the surrounding natural habitat and the historical significance of the site.
Oral and written church history from the surviving descendants of the First African Baptist Church indicate that as early as the 1840s this site was used as a place where the ritual Christian baptism was performed by leaders of a congregation of enslaved people.
Last year, a baptism was recreated for a photo shoot and the parishioners broke into song, just as their ancestors may have when the baptismal pool was still in use.
-Amanda Scott, Program Coordinator for the Liberty County CVB