LITHIA SPRINGS — A class of students from Mercer University’s Douglas County Regional Academic Center has worked with artist Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier to research one of the unique aspects of the county’s history — its name. The students, enrolled in Dr. Melanie Pavich’s History of African-Americans in Georgia class, spent the summer researching whether the county was named for famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass or for Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, who famously debated with Abraham Lincoln in the presidential race leading up to the Civil War.
Mercer’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies is sponsoring the exhibition, titled “Douglass’ Douglass County: A Journey Project,” and the opening reception Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Douglas County Regional Academic Center, 975 Blairs Bridge Road in Lithia Springs. The exhibition runs from Saturday through Aug. 12. There will also be a gallery talk and ceremonial celebration from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on July 15. The events are a featured portion of the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta.
The students, led by Dr. Pavich, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary and historical studies, spent the summer term investigating the history of the county, centered on the question of who the county was named after, as well as gathering oral histories and genealogical records of families with long histories in Douglas County. Though the students uncovered documents from the General Assembly at the time that included Douglass County with two s’s, as well as several maps, the origin of the name remains uncertain, Marshall-Linnemeier said.
“There’s no answer,” Marshall-Linnemeier said. “We’ve examined a number of stories of who it came to be named; it now has its own mythology.”
Marshall-Linnemeier has created several panels using the information gathered by the 13 students in the course, including personal and private documents, oral histories and photographs. In addition to the panels by Marshall-Linnemeier, one of her students from Emory University’s continuing education program, Nancy Sandberg, whose family is from Douglas County, has created a panel that will be displayed as well. Each Mercer student has created a memory book based on their research that will also be on display as part of the exhibit.
“We’re trying to make a part of history that was less visible more visible,” Dr. Pavich said. “In this case, the history of African-Americans in Douglas County. In many African traditions, there is the idea of honoring ancestors, and this project in a way does that. We also hope it will help us with community building and help us come together with our community and offer a way for us to connect across cultures.”
The students who participated in the course and the research are: Kimberly Anderson, Toosdhi Ashley, Elizabeth Baker, Debutante Besley, Kelvin Carlyle, Robin Clark, Sharon Jackson, Michele Johnson, Jamie Lunsford, Niki Parquet, Deborah Shepherd, Roderetta Smith and Jumekia Sutton.
Michele Johnson researched the genealogy of a longtime Douglas County family for her research and said she enjoyed uncovering so many unknown parts of Douglas’ history.
“It really was an eye-opener for me,” Johnson said. “It taught me a lot about the history of Georgia – not just of Douglas County, or of African-Americans – but the state as a whole.”
At the conclusion of the exhibition a portion of the works will be donated by the Journeys Project to Mercer to be displayed in the Douglas County Center and to the Black Educational History Exhibit, which is housed in the Douglas County Courthouse Museum.
About the Artist:
Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier is a visual mythologist, a memory keeper. She is guided by the idea of the journey, unmapped spaces and the magic that occurs when one goes looking for history and ancestors. Her visual repertoire mythologizes and re-imagines historical incidences (especially those that are informed by race, gender, and stereotypes) using photography, painting, oral histories and primary source documents, which she uses to tell the stories of the people in communities that she encounters.
About the College of Continuing and Professional Studies
The College offers degree programs and lifelong learning opportunities for adults who seek leadership roles in their communities and beyond, professional transition and advancement, and lives that have meaning and purpose. The College offers undergraduate degree programs in organizational leadership, human resources administration and development, public safety, liberal studies (individualized), and human services, and graduate programs in counseling, school counseling and public safety leadership. Its programs are offered on Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses, at the University’s regional academic centers in Henry County, Douglas County, Eastman and Newnan. In fall 2010, the College began an Education Specialist degree in School Counseling and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision on the Atlanta campus. The College will offer the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership on the Atlanta campus in the fall of 2011 and at the Henry Regional Academic Center in January 2012. Pending approval of the Commission on Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the College will offer a Bachelor of Science in Informatics in the fall of 2011 on the Atlanta campus and Henry Center and on the Macon campus in fall of 2012.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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